Eugene "Gene" Merz, 77, passed away on Wednesday, July 20, 2011, at Yakima Regional Hospital due to complications following open heart surgery.

He was born Jan. 7, 1934 on the Union Burn near Yelm. Gene's love for horses and the outdoors was evident even when he was a boy.

Gene graduated from Yelm High School in 1952. After working in the Bremerton ship yards he was drafted into the U.S. Army and was sent to Korea. Following an honorable discharge, Gene went to Central Washington State College on the G.I. Bill.

There the rest of his life was set into motion. Gene earned a Bachelor of Arts in education and a Bachelor of Science in biology.

He met the love of his life, Barbara Weitz, at Central. Gene and Barbara were married in Tacoma in 1959 by Gene's grandfather, Reverend Svinth, a Lutheran minister.

The couple eventually settled in Sunnyside in 1963, where they taught school for many years. Their daughter, Judi was born in 1964 and son Tom soon followed in 1968.

Gene and Barbara owned a series of small farms, where they raised their children and Gene's horses.

Gene taught science at Sunnyside High School for three years. He then taught fifth and sixth grade until he retired in 1989.

Gene and Barbara bought a small cherry orchard in 1976 just outside of Sunnyside.

After his retirement, Gene pursued farming and drinking coffee with his friends full time.

He lived his life exactly the way he wanted to. Gene loved his family, horses and Jesus.

He was a longtime active member of the Sunnyside First Christian Church, serving most recently as a deacon. He was proud to be an enrolled member of the Nisqually Tribe.

Gene will long be remembered for telling stories, again and again. He could strike up a conversation with anyone. The light of his life were his grandsons.

Gene is survived by his wife, Barbara of Sunnyside; children, Judi (Dave) Lewis of Selah and Tom (Kasey) Merz of Pasco; and grandsons, Jackson Lewis, Johnathon Merz, Matthew Lewis and Joshua Merz; brother, Harold (Janice) Merz of Yelm; sister, Mildred Wheless of Olympia; cousins, Phyllis (Tom) Carson of Kalispell, Mont., Sandy Merz of Mt. Vernon and Doug (Judy) Merz of Camano Island; along with many nieces and nephews.

He was preceded in death by his parents, William and Esther Merz; and brother, Albert Merz.

Gene will be sorely missed and his many stories will be retold with relished. The family is grateful that Gene passed away quickly and enjoyed his life until the end.

Viewing and visitation will be held Monday, July 25, 2011, from 1 to 8 p.m. and Tuesday, July 26, 2011, from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Smith Funeral Home in Sunnyside. Graveside funeral services will be held Tuesday, July 26, 2011, at 2 p.m., at Lower Valley Memorial Gardens in Sunnyside, with memorial services to follow at 3 p.m. at First Christian Church in Sunnyside.

Those wishing to honor Gene's memory may contribute to the First Christian Church in Sunnyside.

Those wishing to sign Gene's on-line memorial book may do so at

Smith Funeral Home LTD and Crematory in Sunnyside is in charge of arrangements.


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