Harley “Hap” Merritt, Jr.
Harley “Hap” Merritt, Jr., son of Harlie I. and Iris (Hughes) Merritt, was born December 5, 1925, in Seymour, IA. He died November 30, 2015, at the Guthrie County Hospital.
A celebration of life service was held Friday, Dec. 4, at the First United Methodist Church, Guthrie Center. Memorials may be given to the First United Methodist Church, Guthrie Center.
Hap grew up listening to radio broadcasts of the Chicago Cubs and became a life-long fan. He graduated from Seymour High School in 1943 at age 17.
Following graduation, Hap worked at the Ankeny Ordnance Plan in support of World War II while awaiting his 18th birthday when he could enlist in the Army Air Force Cadet program. He was stationed stateside at Marshall College, Huntington, WV and Foster Field, Victoria, TX enrolling in college courses and serving as physical education instructor and player-coach for the bases’ athletic teams. He was honorably discharged in 1945.
Thanks to the G.I. Bill, Hap attended Simpson College in Indianola, IA where he was a three-sport letter-winner (football, basketball, and track). He received the Jack Dempsey Outstanding Athlete award in 1947 and graduated in just 2½ years with his bachelor’s degree in education. In 1982, he was inducted into the Simpson College Athletic Hall of Fame.
While at Simpson, Hap met Ruth Elaine Lockwood, the love of his life, and they were married on May 28, 1948. They made their home in Guthrie Center where Hap began a 39-year career in the Guthrie Center Schools. He taught social studies and physical education classes and coached football, basketball, track, and baseball.
In 1957, Hap received his master’s degree in school administration from Drake University and was promoted to high school principal, a job he held for one month. When the superintendent resigned, Hap was promoted again. He served as superintendent for the next 30 years, managing the school business as if it were his own and treating students and staff like family. During his tenure, the country schools were closed and rural students began attending school in Guthrie Center, a new elementary school was built (1960), and a new high school followed (1975). Hap also represented the schools of southwest Iowa for 27 years as an elected council member of the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union.
After retiring in 1987, Hap enjoyed the Old Geezers Coffee Club, was a regular at the Guthrie Center Fitness Center, and entered contests as a hobby. He was a member of the Lions Club, Omar B. Shearer American Legion Post 124, the Guthrie Center Chamber of Commerce, and the First United Methodist Church where he served as usher for many years.
Hap loved his family, community, and church. He was a dedicated parent and grandparent regularly attending his children’s and grandchildren’s activities. Hap impacted the lives of many, and he loved attending reunions and visiting with former students and players. He was known for his fun-loving sense of humor and served others as a kind, caring friend.
Survivors include wife Ruth; daughters Debbie (Dale) Menning of Guthrie Center, Judy (Steve) Neal of Columbia, MO, and Lori Merritt of Ames; grandchildren Tony (Jill) Menning of Mason City, Kristin (John) Maletta of Ankeny, and Joseph Neal of Bethesda, MD; great-grandchildren Hudson and Stella Menning of Mason City; brothers Charles (Esther) Merritt of Racine, WI and Robert (Dixie) Merritt of Ottumwa; sister-in-law Gene Merritt of Kirksville, MO; other relatives and friends.