Kenneth Edwin Merklin, aged 101, died peacefully Saturday, October 2, 2021, surrounded by his loving family who marveled that he had been playing golf just a couple days earlier. He let go of the life he had embraced with kindness, simplicity, and strength.
Born in Index, Washington, on Jan. 6, 1920, to a Canadian mother and an American father who was a station agent for the Great Northern Railroad, Ken’s early school years were spent just over the Canadian border in White Rock, British Columbia. He returned to Washington state in 1938, married Barbara Daum in 1942, and earned a degree in Mineral Engineering from the University of Washington in 1944. He joined the U.S. Navy and served as a naval officer in the Pacific.
In 1948, Ken led his wife and two young daughters to Hibbing, Minnesota, the center of the U.S. iron ore industry, where he researched and developed methods to use low grade ores in manufacturing steel. In 1963, they headed back to the West Coast, settling in Tiburon, as he took a position in San Francisco with Marcona Corporation, a multimillion-dollar mining and shipping firm, where his responsibilities as vice president and president beckoned him to mining sites around the world.
An avid gardener, painter, and golfer as well as world traveler, Ken moved his wife, Barbara, from their hilltop Tiburon home to Villa Marin when she became frail so he could take care of her. She passed in 2004. He poured 4 1/2 years of his personal time, energy, garden expertise, and money into multi-level botanic gardens complete with planters, individual private planting plots, a small orchard of fruit trees, and a complete irrigation system. He painted landscapes and animals, enjoying a recent exhibition of his art at Villa Marin.
And he golfed, until just two days before he died. Infamous at Meadow Club because of the number of rounds he played, as well as his age when he played them, it is said that he walked the Meadow Club far enough to reach the moon and back. He enjoyed more than 5,000 rounds at the Meadow Club, maybe even 6,000. He scored his fifth hole in one at age 96.
His two daughters, Roma Hammel and Rita Johnson, and four grandchildren, Erin Hammel, Lis Hammel, Marc Johnson, and Jeni Jenkins, remember all the holidays they shared with him — train rides, houseboats and RV adventures, train travels, and ocean cruises. He loved dancing, playing dominoes, and doing puzzles with the women he loved, Barbara, Rickie, Jean, and with children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. As friends have repeatedly said, Ken was the best man any of us have ever known. What grace to be present in the circle of love surrounding him.