Merle Lunceford, 82, of Ely, dies

Merle W. Lunceford, 82, of Ely, passed away on Saturday, October 14, 2017 at his residence. Merle Lunceford was born in Long Prairie, MN on May 2, 1935, third of five children of Alma and Lyle Lunceford. He was a graduate of Long Prairie High School who went on to earn his teaching degree from St. Cloud State University.
He taught mathematics at Ely Memorial High School in the same room for 34 years. While teaching, he earned a Master’s degree from Purdue University by traveling to West Lafayette, Indiana during the summer.
During his time at the school, he also connected with many students through coaching. He was an avid baseball player in his younger years and he shared his detailed knowledge of the sport. Merle was always willing to give of himself, especially to young people who showed a desire to work diligently. Some of the teams he coached in both tennis and baseball advanced to state-level competitions. He would quickly redirect any credit of success to the student athletes. Merle also supported the Ely programs by scoring and timing games. There were only a few years between 1960 and 1995 that Merle was not sitting on the sidelines of boys basketball games. He also was known as one of the best baseball umpires in the area. He umped softball, VFW, Legion, High School, and Amateur baseball games.
One highlight of his umpiring career was the opportunity to work the 1980 Legion World Series games held in Ely.
Merle was a life long bachelor who, more than once, joked he was too busy to get married. However, he was a mentor or father-figure for dozens of students during his lifetime. He invested in relationships - he had many close friends - and cultivated relationships between people.
Merle believed in the importance of education and, as a farm boy at heart, loved to fertilize and weed his metaphorical garden. He was a major donor to the Ely Education Foundation and Ely Community Resources. In later years he worked hundreds of puzzles, loved his dog companions, and also spent as much time as possible in the woods - always under the guise of helping someone with their firewood. He would state, “If we are not here to help others what are we here for?”
Merle was preceded in death by his father, Lyle, mother Alma, and older brother, Wayne. He is survived by two sisters, Wanda McNeal of Cherry, MN and Marlys Dixon of Rockford, IL; one brother, Marvin of Woodbury, MN and several nephews and nieces.
A memorial service will be held at Kerntz Funeral Home on Sunday, October 22 at 1 p.m. Memorials may be made to the Ely Education Foundation, PO Box 373, Ely, MN 55731.
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