Cover photo for Terrel W Merkley's Obituary
Terrel W Merkley Profile Photo
1941 Terrel 2024

Terrel W Merkley

October 17, 1941 — June 21, 2024


Terrel W. Merkley, 82, passed away on June 21, 2024. Terrel was born October 17, 1941, at the Colonial Inn, which served as the hospital in Blackfoot, Idaho. He was the first of three siblings, each five years apart, so he grew up largely as an only child. He had a brother, Lyndon (J), and is survived by a sister, Tana Weiner, of Florida. 

Terrel was left in the care of his paternal grandmother for a year while his mother, Sylvia Mae Parrish, accompanied his father, Leslie Merkley, to a military base in Portland, Oregon, during World War II. His Mormon ancestry included the founders of Wood's Cross in Utah (the “W” in his name), some practice of polygamy, and a maternal grandmother who was 1/4 Native American. 

Terrel remembered at age three being without electricity, and the sound of the steam locomotive barreling down the train tracks nearby, while living at his grandfather's farm on Merkley Lane after the war ended. He spent a tranquil childhood in town, making friends with interesting boys like Keith Borrowman and Wayne Nelson, most older or younger than himself, in the neighborhood between the church and the elementary school. Being intellectual and curious, he dropped out of church in junior high. 

During summer vacation throughout high school, Terrel moved pipes for farmers on the newly developed Rising River irrigation project. Two seasons working with the Forest Service in Wyoming between years of college gave him a passion for hiking in the mountains. Terrel's goal was to earn enough money to cover the cost of another year of college, since his father didn't believe in higher education and his parents said he would have to pay for it himself. 

As a freshman, Terrel tried to please his father by taking coursework in engineering, but by his third year he set off on his own adventure, attending the Universidad Nacional Autosoma in Mexico City. From this experience he gained fluency in Spanish, which served him well throughout life. The interest in adventure and world travel that he acquired by hitchhiking in Central America with fellow students also followed him over the decades. 

Terrel shared these passions with Anne Hamilton, whom he met in June of 1965, after her own "junior year abroad” in Portland, Oregon, while he was rooming with her eccentric artist-writer brother, Aaron Hamilton. The apartment, an unpainted duplex overhanging the Portneuf River on Hayes St., was torn down that fall for construction of the concrete channel through old town Pocatello. 

The summer they met, Terrel and Anne, along with Aaron and a couple, Phil and Roberta Behymer, piled into a'46 Chevy and drove to points of interest along the way to Oaxaca. They were married over Christmas vacation and planned a trip to Europe the next fall on a $1,000 National Foundation for the Humanities graduation travel grant which Anne received for creative writing. 

Following a bumpy flight over the ocean on an Icelandic prop jet, they stayed six weeks in an unheated Paris hotel, riding the Metro, and devoted days to viewing everything in the Louvre. Three weeks were spent between the Spanish coastal town of Malaga and traveling by bus inside Morocco, as far as the Saharan Desert, after crossing the Strait of Gibraltar at Tangiers. But the couple didn't have money enough to ford the English Channel and see the land of their ancestors and had to wire Anne's parents from New York for funds to get back home. 

Finishing coursework that fall, they were faithful participants in the “Cinema 6" movie program at Idaho State College, under the auspices of English professor Wilbur Huck. They tried their hand at 8 mm and 16 mm experimental (or "underground") filmmaking, but soon found it to be prohibitively expensive. 

Terrel, Anne, and Aaron took numerous trips to Mexico together over the next few years, with Terrel driving the '62 white Corvair which had been a wedding present from Anne's father, as well as to the Pacific Coast and to Salt Lake City. At that time, gas was 28 ₵ a gallon. One trip was devoted to conducting research in Southwestern university libraries on psychedelic drugs used by the Indians of Mexico, followed by locating not only peyote but also tolojuachi (jimson weed) and heavenly blue morning glory in remote areas of the country. 

As "Pocatello Hippies", the couple moved to Haight St. in San Francisco in 1968 with $75 in their pockets. They worked temp jobs while waiting for California certificates to be processed from Idaho teaching credentials, then substituted in newly integrated secondary schools. 

They attended some live psychedelic rock concerts at Golden Gate Park, plus lectures by Timothy Leary and Allen Ginsberg. Ready to leave the big city, Terrel applied for and was granted a position teaching junior English, his first full-time job, at the newly opened Highland High School, while Anne, then pregnant, was accepted as one of two students in the first year of the Master of Fine Arts program, with a teaching assistantship, at what had just become ISU. Their first child, Karma Krishna, was born while they lived in a small apartment against the hill at the end of West Lewis St. 

Heavily influenced by mentors like the late Joyce Caccia (Sara Joyce), the couple studied the occults and, over a period of years, read everything written by psychologist Carl Jung. They also purchased a "crackerbox" house on an acre of land at Jason Street in the South Park neighborhood with $3,000 saved from working in San Francisco, plus a loan made by Anne's mother. Terrel wrote his Master's thesis in English on a comparison of Jungian archetypal symbolism and a novel by Goethe. Anne edited his thesis and typed it. 

Terrel's penchant for reading also followed him throughout his life, as he devoted at least two hours a day to news on current affairs and finance, in recent years switching from books and magazines to his wi-fi tablet. This habit nurtured an encyclopedic brain and made him a great conversationalist. 

Son Shane was born during the four years at Jason and became famous for climbing a ladder set against the house at age eighteen months to reach the roof where his father was working. By the second year at Jason, the fertile horse pasture was producing a huge garden with bushels of peas and other vegetables, and the couple purchased a chest freezer which is still humming along to this day. Their back-to-the-land enterprise included a small used John Deere tractor and a mother goat with two kids, from which Anne got milk, with difficulty, and made cheese - for a short time. 

They acquired a white VW bus, which allowed them to go camping and exploring more easily as a family. Still unable to make ends meet on a teacher's salary (with a starting take-home pay of $3,000), the couple helped Anne's father haul hay during summers on the farm south of Blackfoot where she grew up, and also became involved in real estate. This venture began with fixing the Jason St. house to rent out while moving back in town to the family home on No. Arthur, which is now in the process of being sold, 50 years later. 

The acreage was divided into house lots, and Dolbeer St. was filled in as the couple proceeded to purchase, set on new foundations, renovate, and sell fifteen houses, then acquired apartment buildings with the proceeds. It helped, having an uncle like Parks Parrish, with a house moving business, whose job it was to relocate nine of these homes from the block where the ISU Library sits now. Today they would have been torn down. 

Shane and Krishna grew up spending summers at work sites and learned the trade. After the acquisition, construction, and management of as many as 40 rental units, Terrel and Anne were experienced at pouring and finishing concrete, roofing, framing, sheetrocking and taping, tile work, patching, texturing, wallpapering and painting. Terrel did his own finish carpentry, plumbing, and electricity, and Anne has handled all of the lawn mowing, watering, and groundskeeping for the last 20 years. Together they always maintained, rented, repaired, and cleaned their own units. 

Terrel had taught at Highland for nine years and quit when transferred to a junior high. During tough times in the 1980s, the last house was sold at a loss, and interest rates on construction loans were 28%. The couple also contracted out, working for several years with a HUD housing rehab federally funded project under City Manager Ron Timpson. Still there seemed to be only a job and a half, rather than two full-time ones, and Terrel took an adult teaching position at Fort Hall with the tribes, while Anne taught high school English and Art at Aberdeen for part of two years. 

It was not until Anne's father died that there was enough money for the family to do recreational things together like skiing and riding motor bikes. With the inheritance that she knew would be her only break in life being syphoned off into the business, Anne sought a divorce to pursue the academic career she'd expected to have, once the children left home. Eight years later, the couple agreed to reunite. Anne received modest compensation for her work on the property over a period of twenty years. Ironically, the real estate and rental markets had been good during Anne's absence but became tough again after they got back together. 

Meanwhile, Terrel's "social life" merged with his true passion, which was to be a jazz pianist. His father had purchased a small organ, and Terrel took piano lessons briefly during childhood. He practiced both classical piano and improvised jazz in the music rooms at ISU throughout the 1960s, '70s, and '80s, also taking a class in music theory. 

During the 1990s, he played a guitaron with Ramona Awes in Latin and Mexican music groups and traveled to Bolivia with friends. His musical pursuits grew into Swing Shift band, as he played several gigs a month throughout eastern Idaho with Mike Banks and other musicians from Idaho Falls. Terrel was essentially the only jazz pianist in the area, his instrument now being an electronic keyboard. 

The old house at Arthur became Terrel's practice room and Anne's art studio and classroom, as the two pursued their self-supporting habits along with the rental business throughout the 2000s. They had gone in together on purchase of the current home on nearly an acre in the Johnnie Creek area, following Anne's long-standing desire to move out of town. But she did not anticipate doing the vast majority of the work, while sharing in none of the profit. 

Terrel serendipitously met Keith Ward, who was playing jazz clarinet on a street corner in downtown Pocatello, and over the next ten years developed his musicianship to a professional and perfectionist level. What looked easy, combined with Terrel's determination to make a good impression, actually required countless hours, days, and weeks of practice. Behind the person who was easy going, relaxed, and pleasant, who avoided conflict and doing anything he didn't want to, was a highly competitive side, which led him to play a mean game of racquetball with friends like Ralph Fry and Dwain Murphy. 

Terrel's taking the path of least resistance resulted in his falling prey to a disgruntled renter - who would have been screened out in a background check - a cybercriminal who has been actively involved in an attempt to take over the business and destroy the family for the past three years. 

Terrel's health problems began with a broken hip from slipping on the ice at work in 2017, followed by a pacemaker for bradycardia and hernia surgery, which limited his activities. Taking up the slack, Anne was forced to abandon her own art, the rentals being their only source of income. After 30 years of playing and performing music, toward the end that was nearly all that Terrel did. 

Anne misses the Sunday drives and hikes with her life partner, plus annual trips to Sun Valley Jazz festivals. She had already begun escorting Terrel around as early as the fall of 2023, and, along with Krishna, carried his equipment, as he developed glaucoma, unexplained weight loss, weakness, and seizing of muscles. 

Many of these symptoms were attributed to the couple's three bouts with COVID, but it took five months of tests, doctor appointments, and visits to the ER then intensive care since January to get a diagnosis of Lou Garig's, or ALS. Terrel was homebound, with Anne and Krishna attending him, on 24-hour oxygen, which ultimately could not keep up with the atrophying of his lungs. 

He is survived by his daughter and son, his grandsons Chiron Pitchford and Grayson Merkley, and many cousins plus nieces and nephews. 

The family wishes to thank Dr. Bryan Hanson, Terrel's primary care physician, and specialists Dr. Scott of Gastroenterology, Dr. Krawtz of Lung and Sleep, and Dr. Patel, Norco neurologist, plus numerous other dedicated medical personnel. Rob of Norco, Jared at Custom Rehab Physical Therapy, and Enhabit Home Care and Hospice all deserve special thanks, along with friends and family who have offered their condolences, and Wilks Funeral Home. 

There will be a cremation Memorial Service at Wilks in Chubbuck from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Friday, July 26. This celebration of life will include sharing, plus a special music soundtrack, displays, and slide show. 

What is a father? what is a dad? I never really pondered these until I lost mine. Until I lost you! Dad.

When I was three years old, I remember sitting on the ground in our orchard. It was summertime, my favorite season and my favorite place to be. And, I remember the fascinating orb weaving spiders in the garden, where I’d just stolen a handful of fresh peas. You taught me that these spiders were ok, because they helped the vegetables grow. The black widows in the greenhouse, however were not. You killed them. And you made sure I understood why.

In the orchard, I’d just formed “bird’s nests” out of the freshly mown grass and I had to show you. I wanted to help the birds the way the orb weavers helped the vegetables. I was looking up, up, up, at you, beyond the plums in the tree branches, somehow beyond the clouds and the sun, your head was touching the sky! You were larger than life itself…a Giant. 

Even in death, this will never change. I will always be your child, your daughter, your “Dolly”. And in my heart you will always be my protector, my teacher, my provider, my sage, my inspiration. 

Much later in life I realized that I’d inherited my scientific mind from you, hence my degree in Biology. You instilled a love of nature and the outdoors in me through many annual camping trips in our Volkswagen Van and backcountry hikes in the Tetons. You often carried us as children on your shoulders when our short legs tired. Again, you were providing a different perspective and I was on top of the world. 

You loved adventure and travel. You went to college in Mexico and taught yourself Spanish. You explored different cultures, exotic lands. I myself followed your footsteps, trekking many different places alone, for work and pleasure, leaving my comfort zone behind. The fact that you had done it meant that I could, too. Thank you for giving me the courage to expand my horizons. 

You were disciplined in everything you did, be it eating healthy, exercising, hiking, skiing, racquetball, by working hard, and then making time to pursue your passions. Somehow you instinctively understood the importance of work/ life balance. 

You were a phenomenal jazz pianist. You earned every note through diligent practice and perfectionism. Your music brought so much joy to everyone who heard it. I was your biggest fan, following you around, helping you carry your equipment, dancing and letting my worries go in the moment. Your level of talent and discipline is something I could never live up to. That shortcoming is mine alone, because you did consistently provide the example. 

You were an avid reader and researcher, wanting to learn how to do things, how the world works, yearning to understand and better yourself, and in return better humanity. Your interests were varied, and you mastered many of them. I too, share your inquisitive mind. 

Thank you, dad, for just being you. You did the best you could, and it was more than I could ask for. What an extraordinary life you lived and shared freely with everyone. I am so lucky to be your daughter. I love you, always. Karma Krishna Merkley Strong.

My father was a great man. He was the best dad a son could ask for! He was there when I needed him. He taught me to live. 

He was helpful and there for people when they needed him. He was charming and charismatic. He was talented and worked well with others. 

He touched the lives of thousands of people! I heard many people say he was the best landlord they ever had. 

He helped me get my feet off the ground! He was a family man. Patient and tolerant. He was friendly, compassionate. Smart! He did a great job at raising his family and creating his own business. 

He was a good loving husband, and lived a good healthy life. Full of fond memories and lots of smiles! Making people happy playing music, sharing stories, and his talents and life with others.

Memories and condolences may be shared by visiting the Guestbook below.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Terrel W Merkley, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Upcoming Services

Celebration of Life

Friday, July 26, 2024

3:00 - 5:00 pm (Mountain time)

Wilks Funeral Home - Chubbuck

211 W. Chubbuck Road, Chubbuck, ID 83202

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