Frank Merrill says you can understand a lot about the kind of person his wife Clarice was by what she did after she knew she might soon die. She died on Sunday, Jan. 17, of a pulmonary embolism, a complication following surgery. She was 69.
Mr. Merrill says that after his wife received the terminal diagnosis she spent four hours in her home office in Atherton, writing checks, organizing all her papers, and making sure everything was taken care of. "Her desk was completely clean," he says.
"She was resolute, she was brilliant, warm and forgiving," he says of his wife of 35 years. Her children say she was the "glue that bonded the family together."
She was also generous with her home and her love. In addition to four children of her own, she also welcomed foster children into their home, Mr. Merrill says. She had also "adopted" the East Palo Alto Razorbacks rugby team, Mr. Merrill says, and 15 of them were at the house the night she died.
"She would give a lot of grief to her husband Frank for all of his rugby activities, but at the end of the day she loved rugby, was a rugby woman, mother, and supporter to all who played," family members say.
Clarice Merrill had served on Atherton's Park and Recreation Committee and was a member of the Holbrook-Palmer Park Foundation.
Mr. Merrill says his wife had a straightforward, direct manner, some of which developed from her relationship with her mother-in-law, Gen Merrill. "She battled my mother tooth and nail" at first, but soon "they became good friends," he says. "She was equal to the challenge."
After Gen Merrill died, Clarice Merrill continued her mother-in-law's tradition of hosting regular bridge and poker parties for 40 friends once a month much of the year. Frank Merrill says that 24 of the original group still carry on the tradition.
Clarice Merrill also loved sleepovers with her girlfriends, quilting, frequent banter with her husband, and time away at her home in Quincy.
She attended quilting camps and shows with her girlfriends and was active in Soroptomists in Quincy, and Eastern Star and Rainbow in Redwood City, where she was the Mother Advisor.
She also loved animals and at one time had seven dogs. She always had a dog, beginning with her German Shepherd, Ponza, and ending with her Chihuahua, Little Man.
Clarice Merrill was born Aug. 31, 1946, in Los Angeles, the only child of June and Stanley Moeck. She lived with her family in Paradise in Butte County until her junior year of high school. She graduated from Coast Joint Union High in Cambria.
She had two children, Rich and Tami, from her first marriage. After her divorce, Clarice and Frank met while both were students at Cal Poly. The family lived in the Philippines, where Frank Merrill received his veterinary degree and they adopted their daughter Amy, before moving back to the United States, where son Mike was born.
She worked for SRI International, writing business applications, but soon followed her dream to move back to the Sierra Nevada, to Qunicy, where Frank Merrill had a veterinary practice.
She returned to the Bay Area with son Mike while Frank stayed in Quincy for a year while Amy finished her senior year of high school. Family members say Clarice Merrill felt it was important that their daughter not have to change high schools as she had to do.
She received a degree in business administration from Menlo College in 2002 as part of the college's professional student program. She worked for a startup brain cancer research company, Direct Therapeutics.
She is survived by her husband, Frank of Atherton, daughter Amy Merrill Bloomfield, her husband, Willeo Bloomfield, and their son Frankie, of Atherton; daughter Tami McMillan, her husband Bret,and their children Brandon and Madi, from Mountain View; and son Mike Merrill of Hawaii. She was preceded in death by her son, Rich May, an East Palo Alto police officer who was killed in the line of duty on Jan. 7, 2006.
The funeral service will be held on Saturday, Jan. 30, at the Performing Arts Center at Menlo-Atherton High School, starting at 2 p.m., with a reception following at the Merrill home, Glenwood Ranch.
Memorial donations may be sent to the Rich May Foundation, 64 Moulton Drive, Atherton, CA 94027, or at richmayfoundation.org.