The Board of Directors of Branch 54 at their December 2015 meeting voted unanimously to again submit the following nomination, posthumously, for Hall of Fame recognition in memory of club member Gilbert Merry.
Gil was one of the early members of Branch 15, as he went to The Great Oregon Steam- up in Brooks, OR in 1972 where he and longtime friend, Andy Gortsema, became members. They not only attended future shows, but also transported and showed their engines. Several Branch 15 members remember Gilbert showing up with a bunch of Walla Walla Sweet onions along with his engines. They all went and got some onions when he arrived, and then went back to their engines! Others remember Gil running a homemade ice cream freezer with one of his engines, and then giving free ice cream to the kids at the Brooks show.
In about 2000, due to failing eyesight from macular degeneration, Gil maintained membership in branch 54, which was located closer to home. In conjunction with his nephew, John Merry, they would read the newsletters together. Gil never held an office in either club due to the distance to Brooks and then later due his failing eyesight, but he did host many meetings for our Branch 54 where he could still tell about each engine & tractor and see that the units got started and run for the members and guests.
Three of Gil’s greatest contributions to EDGE&TA and member branches were:
- His dedication to the finding, collection, restoration, education and display/operation of particularly unique and rare units;
- 2. Involving his nephew, John, from an early age, as will be explained later:
- BUT—his instilling a growing interest into the younger generation of college students from nearby Walla Walla Community College, as explained below, was a truly very important contribution.
Les Echtenkamp, Instructor with the John Deere Technology program at Walla Walla Community College relates that for over 15 years Gilbert welcomed the WWCC classes to his farm and collection on a yearly basis. About 175 students have had the benefits of Gil’s “grandfatherly” education and hospitality. Each visit included history, operational safety and starting tips PLUS actual starting and operation of the units by the students! Gil’s presentations were intermixed with some colorful humor to hold and grow their interest. Question & answer sessions were also part of the program.
Each visit was finalized by the starting of the 37.5 HP Fairbanks-Morse, model
YV, semi diesel engine that required 14 yards of concrete to hold it in place.
Gilbert’s nephew helped with many of these above mentioned sessions, and today John continues to host this visitation program for the J.D. Technology Program students.
In 2012, instructor Echtenkamp experienced a serious health issue. While away from his position, a class of J.D. students and his co-instructors, utilizing lessons they learned from Gil, restored a 3 H.P. John Deere hit and miss stationary engine to running condition for Les.
Gilbert, as mentioned earlier, should be sincerely applauded for his futuristic thinking to involve and train his nephew, from an early age, so that John would learn from “the old master” and would be able to take over, maintain, add to and exhibit this collection when Gil was no longer around. This has allowed keeping “alive and intact” the collection, its history and educational aspects so many more students and others could also enjoy the fruits of Gil’s passion. John has already shown that he can amply fulfill this role for which Gil groomed him.
In summary, Gil made several significant contributions to EDGE&TA and this “Old Iron” hobby through his extensive education of the younger generation, his well-known comradery with many other serious collectors while finding, saving, restoring and exhibiting some very notable, unique and rare units including a 20 HP Brown-Cochran that he had to have new flywheels cast, at a significant cost! A 15 HP model N Fairbanks with a single flywheel was his favorite engine. Without question however, the most significant unit in Gilbert Merry’s collection is the last known, 1895 Golden Gate 7 HP engine that Gil asked John to acquire at a upcoming auction—which Gil unfortunately did not live to see happen! This engine was originally sold new in the Walla Walla area and had “lived” there all its life and Gil wanted it to stay “home”!
Branch 54 herein proudly submits this application posthumously on behalf of GILBERT MERRY and hopes the committee will appreciate the outstanding effort that this pioneer and old iron legend put forth to advance the antique engine, tractor and equipment community.