Maria Merrick, formerly from Sewal, Iowa, went to be with her heavenly Father on Aug. 15, 2013, after a short illness. She was 98 years and two months old.
Maria was born on June 11, 1915, in the German settlement of Bugulma on the Volga River in Russia to parents Johann and Rosalia Lipphardt. Johann ran a butchery and bakery. Maria was the 10 of 12 children. The family fled Bugulma to Siberia in 1919 because of the Russian Revolution. After one winter in Petropavlovsk, Siberia washing laundry and doing other chores for the czar’s army, they moved to a farm near the coastal city of Vladivostok, Russia where they raised potatoes and repaired shoes for over a year. Two children had died previously as infants and three died in this ordeal, leaving Maria as the youngest living.
The family fled again, this time traveling on board ship around Korea to a refugee camp in Mukden, Manchuria. They eventually got a house and found work and a school for Maria and her brother Frederick. Maria had to walk several miles to this makeshift Russian school in the country. She learned Russian at school but in the evenings, her father taught her to read and write German. After five years, the family moved to Tsingtao, China, because of the large European population there. Maria continued her education in a private German Lutheran school where the level of education was extremely high. She spoke and wrote German, Russian, and English. She was versed in Chinese enough to do shopping.
At 16 years old, Maria went to work in a German department store as a sales girl. She also worked in the florist department and loved arranging flowers. The death of her father in 1941 from lung cancer was very hard on Maria for she loved him dearly. After recuperating from this, Maria worked one year as a supervisor of Chinese workers and procured groceries for a German boarding house. Then Maria found an ideal job as a nanny, taking care of Juergen Boetcher, the son of a German shipping and export company executive and his wife, from the time he was one month old until he was seven. During these years, Maria and her family endured the Japanese occupation of China, bread lines and life threatening dangers. Maria, Juergen, and his mother moved to Shanghai after the war where Maria had the added responsibility of managing the household. By 1947, Maria’s family was relocated to Shanghai also. In August of 1949, Maria met Roland Merrick, an American who had just completed a job with the United Nations UNRRA project in China. They courted for one month and were married Sept. 22, 1949. Maria had difficulties getting a visa. She finally sailed out of communist ruled China on the “General Gordon” in the spring of 1950, after waiting 24 hours in a single file line, being searched by armed soldiers, and having to row out into the bay and climb the side of the ship because it was not allowed to dock. She arrived in San Francisco just before Memorial Day and boarded a train for Oklahoma to join her husband. Her first real impression of the U.S. was the beautifully decorated graves she saw as she traveled by train. Roland and Maria first resided in Pryor, Okla., where Maria learned vegetable gardening and canning. (Vegetables and meats were bought fresh daily at markets in China.) They bought a farm one and half miles southeast of Sewal and moved in the fall of 1950. Maria and her husband worked very hard on the farm, paying for the land and buying more in only a few years. Maria miscarried three babies and had three live births – all daughters. She studied government and history courses by correspondence classes and then took her citizenship exam in Des Moines becoming a U.S. citizen April 29, 1957.
Maria’s mother died in Australia in December 1963. Her husband Roland died in March 1965. She remained on the farm, raising her children, renting her farm out to nearby farmers and managing its operation herself until she sold all but the three acres with the house in 1987. She continued to live on the acreage until 2005 when she first moved to live with her daughter Marilyn in Kansas and then her daughter Rosalee in Missouri. In April 2012, Maria returned to Corydon living at Our House (a senior boarding house) and most recently resided at Legacy Lodge Hospice House in Chariton.
Maria was active in the Sewal United Methodist Church Ladies Aide, quilting and embroidering items for their bazaars. She took her daughters to accordion and guitar lessons. She was an attentive, kind and loving mother and grandmother. She absolutely adored her grandsons. She was always available to assist her daughters with anything from gardening to painting. She kept an immaculate home and yard. She loved to take her family on day trips to such places as the Tulip Festival in Pella, the Amana Colonies, Living History Farms, Adventure Land, etc. She loved gardening, flowers, visiting her children and grandchildren, going to historic places, cooking, baking and reading. Maria traveled to Germany twice in the 1970’s to see her brother Frederick who was only one year older that herself. She traveled to many states in the U.S. and was visited by family and friends who came from many places in the world.
Her parents; husband; eight brothers; three sisters; three nephews and one niece, preceded her in death.
Surviving her are three daughters and their spouses, Rosalee and John Mason of Cairo Mo., Marilyn and Phil West of Corydon and Lee (Juanita) and Darrell Barron of Paradise, Texas; four grandsons, Monte Watson of Ft Worth, Texas, Matthew Watson of Corydon, Zachary Mason of Cairo, Mo., and Casey (Dana) Coates of Corydon; one stepson, Boris Merrick of New Haven Conn.; one stepdaughter, Joyce Walton of Berkley, Calif.; four nieces, Lydia McClellan of Boliver Pa., Irene Allardyce of Port Charlotte, Fla., Tanya (Max) Hadzi-Vukovic of Kenmore, Queensland, Australia and Olga (Earnest) Patrick of Batesville, Ind.; four nephews, Arthur (Christiane) Lipphardt of Peyton, Colo., John (Jan) Balabouhin of Burbank, Queensland, Australia; Alexander Balabouhin of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia and Robert (Desleigh) Lipphardt of Jimboomba, Queensland, Australia; 13 stepgrandchildren; and 29 step great-grandchildren. Also surviving is Juergen (Sabine) Boettcher of Baldham, Germany.
There will be a family memorial service at a later date. Maria’s wishes were to have no flowers and suggested that any memorial donations go to Legacy Lodge Hospice House in Chariton or to Wayne County Hospital in Corydon.