Lucille Merrill, 'always the explorer,' dies at 85

Lucille Margaret Merrill, age 85, passed away at Providence Hospital in Anchorage on July 21.

Lucille was born in Tacoma, Washington, in 1935. It wasn't long before her adventurous family took on a project that would define her life. They built a boat and sailed to Alaska on a summer voyage. One of their stops was Wrangell, and they fell in love and decided to stay and work commercial fishing.

While attending school, she would spend her summers with her family fishing. Thinking she was missing out on island life, at 16, she convinced her parents to let her spend her summer in town. Her strong work ethic landed her a job at the shrimp cannery, where she tried to keep up with the well-seasoned locals and enjoyed listening to their tales.

She graduated from Wrangell High School in 1954 and married her high school sweetheart, Skip McKibben, in 1956. They traveled to California to attend Humboldt State College, retuning to Wrangell in the summers to work, and graduated in 1961.

"Always the explorer and adventurer, there are few bays or mountaintops on the entire Alaska coast that Lucille did not explore," her family wrote. "She loved the Stikine wilderness and relished her time exploring its tributaries."

Lucille was remembered as a young woman running a skiff somewhere remote by herself. While raising three children, she kept busy commercial fishing, working in the school system as a secretary and climbing mountains. She also was an excellent hunter and marksman.

In 1970 she married Ira Merrill and spent the next 45 years commercial fishing (trolling, longlining and shrimping), and collaborating on many of Ira's artistic endeavors.

Lucille was a talented artist. Although humble in her accomplishments, she mastered painting, drawing, beading and sewing furs. She loved talking to others about their art and was a constant encourager, and enthusiastically enabled all artists.

After retiring from fishing, she devoted her time as a great animal advocate. Lucille spent many hours rescuing and finding new homes for cats, dogs and other critters.

"We all remember Lucille as endlessly energetic, often outlasting her grandchildren in sledding or fort building. She was thoughtful, helping others with their needs, and supported many conservation efforts," her family wrote. "Lucille was an exceptionally kind soul with never a negative word to say, and her smile would light up the world. Lucille will be missed by all that knew her."

Lucille was preceded in death by her parents Gene and Lib Fisher, her husband Ira Merrill, and daughter Rhonda McKibben.

Lucille is survived by her children Brenda Schwartz-Yeager (John Yeager), of Wrangell; Michael Summerfield, of California; and grandchildren Emily Klosterman, Michael Schwartz, Lauren Yeager, Connor Yeager and Brian Schwartz

"Lucille expressed that she did not wish a memorial service on her behalf, so instead, please thoughtfully consider doing some of the things that she enjoyed. Take food to someone in need, compost and recycle, be kind to animals, and spending time enjoying nature." Consider donating to Saint Frances Animal Rescue


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