On Wednesday morning, Crawford County lost a World War II and Korean War veteran, a person who was a storehouse of local history and a talented writer.
Mearl T. Luvaas died early Sunday morning at University Park Nursing & Rehab in Des Moines at the age of 96. (See the funeral notice attached to this article.)
However, Mearl lives on through the stories he told, creating for those he spoke with the images of historical events and everyday life in Crawford County, military service, and details about one of his favorite subjects, aviator and Denison native Clarence Chamberlin.
And, of course, Mearl lives on through his words in “Thoughts from the Old Guy,” a column he had written for the Denison Bulletin and Review since 2002.
Mearl had a loyal readership and enjoyed being asked by those he met in stores and on the street if he was the “Old Guy.”
He played a part in some phase of the publishing business in Denison and Crawford County nearly all his life.
For 50 years, except for the years spent in the military, Mearl sold advertising, set up ads, photographed the pages and printed the Ad-Visor, which was owned by his brother, Norman. He retired from that job at age 77, but then returned to selling advertising for the Ad-Visor after it was purchased by the Denison Bulletin and Review.
When he retired again, he continued to write a column, “The One Question Interview,” and began his “Thoughts” columns.
However, Mearl often pointed out that his entry into the publishing business began at the age of 11 when he started delivering the Ad-Visor. In several of his “Thoughts” columns he would recall the boys with whom he delivered the Ad-Visor.
He would also tell of the places he would travel with his wife, Lillian Athey Lass. They were married on Thanksgiving Day, November 27, 1947, in Denison and had three children, Louis, Lois and Larry.
In 2006, Mearl and Lillian were crowned the prince and princess of the Denison Sesquicentennial.
Mearl had a special place in his heart for a broad range of topics.
Deloit, where he was born on March 9, 1922, the fifth son of Knut and Bertha Luvaas.
The celebrities he met during the Donna Reed Festival in Denison. He often spoke of writing actress Gigi Perreau and fondly recalled getting a milkshake with character actress Kathleen Freeman.
The Big Band orchestras and leaders that he loved to listen to on the radio. He wrote of Glenn Miller selecting him and the WAAC he was married to at the time (during the WWII years) to come from the back of a New York City auditorium to the front row for the performance of Cpt. Miller’s Air Force band.
Aircraft and aviators. Along with Chamblerin, Mearl enjoyed the stories of Paul Tibbets, pilot of the B-29 bomber Enola Gay that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima; Charles W. Fink, of Deloit, the youngest B-24 bomber pilot in the European Theater during World War II, and local aviators Ralph Weberg and Louis “Andy” Anderson.
Denison businesses that have come and gone.
And growing up and going to school in Denison.
For much of World War II, Mearl served in the Army Air Corps as an aerial photography repairman in Algeria, then was later on a ship heading for Japan when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.
He served in the Air Force Reserves after World War II and was recalled to active duty during for the Korean War, serving at Forbes Air Force Base in Topeka, Kansas.
At the Veterans Day programs at Broadway Elementary School in Denison, Mearl received standing ovations from the other veterans and from the students not only because he had reached an age that invited respect but also because he served in two branches of the military and during two wars. He was also a 69-year member of the American Legion.
Earlier this year, Mearl was interviewed about his life by Andrea Smart, a college student. Asked about the motto he lived by, Mearl said, “I hope that when I die, people will say he was a pretty nice guy.”
No one can argue otherwise.