Albert "Al" Merriam
1927 - 2021
Fullerton Union High School
Nov, 5 2021
Zion Lutheran Church
Albert "Al" Merriam, the last and longest living volunteer firefighter in Orange County, was born in Fullerton, California on February 19, 1927. He grew up in East Fullerton, where he enjoyed hunting with friends in nearby orange groves after school. When Al was ten years old, he mowed lawns for ten cents, the cost of a movie ticket. As a 14-year-old, he worked for the Sunny Hills and Chapman Ranches hoeing weeds, irrigating, and spraying citrus. Al loved working on cars and was doing major repair work before he even had a driver's license. The "Merriam Garage" was a gathering place for friends who also worked on cars. Al began repair work in earnest at Freek's Garage at the age of 16. This prepared him for his life's work in the automotive field.
While at Fullerton High School, Al loved sports, especially football, and as a senior was selected as the all-league first team guard in the Sunset League. In late 1944, at the age of 17, Al joined the Navy; he was honorably discharged in 1946 after the war and, a few days later, met Neola Lemke, his true love -- and life was never the same!
Al enrolled at Fullerton Junior College that fall where he again played football as a first-string guard, this time with Neola cheering him on. Then, at the age of 20, Al was offered a position with the City of Fullerton in 1947. On Christmas Eve of that year, he asked Neola to be his wife. They married in 1948 at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Orange.
Al and Neola purchased a lot near what is now known as the Hiltscher Park Trail and built a home (based on a rendition featured in Sunset magazine) where they raised their three children: Bill, John, and Sharon.
Al worked at the City of Fullerton from 1947 to 1966 before accepting a position as Automotive Fleet Manager for the City of Anaheim, where he worked until retirement in June 1987.
Outside of work, Al was the original "MacGyver." He made water ski boats and water skis, as well as a go-cart out of a metal screen door.
Plus, every household knew Al's dinner time whistle: he could whistle so loud that kids heard it throughout the neighborhood and knew it was time to head home for dinner.
Al and Neola loved to travel together and took trips to England, Russia, Sicily, Hawaii, Greece, and the Holy Land. They also traveled extensively throughout the United States and Canada in their fifth-wheel travel trailer to visit their children and their families. The trailer never left the driveway without fishing poles and plenty of bait!
The Lord's work always took priority in the family through worship and faithfulness in carrying out the responsibilities of leadership in the church during Al's entire life. He sang in the church choir and was always supportive of Neola as a church organist. You would often hear Al quip, "We Christians have the BEST retirement in the world," meaning the joy of being with Jesus Christ in heaven forever and ever.
Al entered eternal life with Christ on October 7, 2021. Al is remembered as a faithful servant of the Lord who loved his wife Neola for 73 years and loved his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, great-great-grandchildren, and his many friends.
Al was also known as a humble man who led by example; his word and handshake were his bond. Al's quick wit, twinkling eyes, and bright smile will be missed. He was preceded in death by his brother, Bill, who was killed as a fighter pilot in World War II.
A memorial service celebrating Al's life will be held at Zion Lutheran Church at 222 N. East Street in Anaheim, CA on Friday, November 5, 2021, at 10:30 a.m.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation in Al's honor to Zion Lutheran Church's Music Ministry or to your favorite charity. In honor of Al and Neola's love of Maui, please wear your favorite Hawaiian outfit.
Published by Orange County Register on Oct. 23, 2021.