Merle Thelo Hedden, age 86, of Boulder City, Nevada, passed away on Veteran’s Day, November 11, 2016, after losing a short battle with pneumonia. He was born on December 2, 1929, in Nelson, Nebraska, and later moved to Mankato, Kansas where he attended Mankato High School. Upon leaving high school at the age of 17, Merle enlisted in the U.S. Army where he was assigned to A Company, 187th Infantry Airborne Regimental Combat Team (ARCT). On October 20, 1950, at the age of 21, Merle found himself parachuting into Sukchon, Korea to head off the retreat of North Korean and Chinese soldiers, along with POWs, from Pyongyang during the Korean War. Merle was wounded while helping another soldier who had been injured earlier in a fierce firefight. Merle was sent to Japan to recuperate, and was soon discharged due to his injuries. In all, 80% of the 187th ARCT was either wounded or killed during their service in Korea. Merle was decorated with the Bronze Star Medal for his heroic service in a combat zone, and the Purple Heart for being wounded while serving in the U.S. military.
Merle returned to Mankato, Kansas, but soon packed up his belongings and headed for California on his motorcycle. Merle loved Southern California; he found himself working as an automotive mechanic for Dick Browning Oldsmobile in Long Beach. During his free time, Merle was usually water skiing, repairing and racing his motorcycle, or fixing cars.
Merle married the love of his life, Beverly, on October 19, 1962. They settled down together in Southern California. During this time Merle and Beverly became avid water ski racers with the Long Beach Boat and Ski Club, and traveled on many family vacations throughout the western United States. In the late 1960s, Merle regularly took his family camping around Southern California. The Salton Sea and Calico were frequent camping destinations where family and friends would meet for some motorcycle riding and exploring fun. In 1972, Merle packed up his family and relocated to Las Vegas, Nevada. For work, Merle was employed at Fairway Chevrolet as the truck department tune up specialist; for play, Merle and the family enjoyed dirt biking, snow skiing and water skiing.
In 1978, Merle moved his family to Oregon City, Oregon to be closer to Beverly’s father. Merle started working for Consolidated Freightways as a diesel mechanic. After surviving multiple life threatening battles with health issues, Merle retired in 1993; he and Beverly then moved to Boulder City, Nevada to live out their golden years. They enjoyed watching the boats on beautiful Lake Mead from their balcony, and taking trips to the park to watch the Big Horn sheep graze. Merle and Beverly also found time to travel; they enjoyed a vacation to Italy, numerous now skiing trips, and house boat adventures on Lake Power with friends. As the years passed, the water skiing, snow skiing and motorcycle riding excursions were no longer possible with Merle’s deteriorating health, so they enjoyed numerous trips to Oregon to visit their daughter Michelle and her family, along with trips to Southern California to visit Beverly's two younger sisters, Linda Jones and Julie Benson.
Soon Beverly’s health also started to suffer. Merle lost the love of his life on February 26, 2010, and continued living in their home caring for their loving bulldog, Savanah. Merle looked forward to watching NASCAR, old Western movies, Wheel of Fortune, and spending time with his sons, Kenny and Eddie. His daughter Michelle also traveled extensively with her family to visit from Oregon.
Merle is preceded in death by his wife, Beverly; brothers, John and Frank; and sister, Rosalla. Merle is survived by his children, Kenny, Eddie and Michelle; grandchildren, Sean, Kelli, Charity, Kevin, Kyle, Chance, Tiffany, Zachary, Heather, Nicholle, Samantha, Micah; and great grandchild, Audrey. Merle is greatly missed, but his family knows he is watching over them alongside the love of his life, Beverly. We miss you, Dad.
Memorial service for Merle will be at 2:00 PM on Monday, December 19, 2016 at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery, 1900 Veterans Memorial Drive, Boulder City, NV. Family and friends can sign an online memorial guestbook at www.bouldercityfamilymortuary.com