Some community leaders are remembered after their passing with buildings or monuments. Dick Merren would want to be remembered through good works – the type he spent more than a half-century sharing with the community.
“He was always looking for a way to make things better,” said Ron Gettelfinger, former president of the United Auto Workers. “Dick truly believed you weren't going to wave a magic wand and fix something – you were only going to do it one step at a time. He was just a wonderful person.”
Merren, who died Sept. 25 at 87, was born in Honduras and came to Fort Wayne in 1948 to attend Indiana Technical College, now Indiana Tech. A naturalized citizen, he left school to serve in the Army and went to work at General Electric upon his return. He later joined International Harvester, beginning a lifelong affiliation with the UAW and organized labor. He was the heart and soul of UAW Retiree Chapter 57 representing the retirees of Harvester.
Said former U.S. Sen. and Gov. Evan Bayh: “I first met Dick Merren 37 years ago, when my father (Sen. Birch Bayh) was running for re-election. He was always very active for working men and families in northeast Indiana. He was someone I always looked forward to seeing.”
Gettelfinger, who planned to attend the funeral today in Fort Wayne, said he got to know Merren while working as UAW Region 3 director for Indiana and Kentucky. They remained close for 25 years.
“If you could put a face on dedication and commitment to the union and all things pro-worker, it would be Dick Merren,” the retired labor leader said.
Merren set an example for many in community service. He served on the boards of numerous community organizations. He was founder of the annual Labor Day Picnic and until this year called bingo numbers at every one.
His work brought multiple honors. But Merren's wish, undoubtedly, would be to inspire service in others.