Merlyn Knighton Jolley was born at home in Elberta, Utah, on a cold night, March 29, 1931. He was so small the doctor did not expect him to make it through the night, but he did and lived 91 more years. He was #18 of the 19 children in a blended family. He shared stories of picking wild asparagus, shooting pheasant, driving his neighbor’s John Deere tractors, and still finding time be pretend to be a train robber setting up a barricade on the train tracks. He did get caught. He loved to share the story of how as a young boy his mother took him away from his friends one day after school to chop wood for a family in need. He believes that started him on the path of service in the church and we all agree that service in the church became the greatest joy and focus of his whole life.
As a teenager he was asked to learn how to type so that he could keep a record of church meetings as the Executive Secretary. At 19 he was called to the same mission where his father served, in Sacramento California. While leading the young adults in Christmas carols, he met and was smitten by JoAnn Amundsen who was home for Christmas from BYU. They were married shortly after he returned from his mission in the SLC temple on Feb. 27, 1953. Before they could start a life together, he was drafted into the Korean war where he served in Germany as an instructor on repairing tanks. He finally returned home for good to JoAnn and almost 3 children. They moved to Southern California where he was hired by Western Electric, a company that later became part of AT&T. He worked there for over 30 years in communication technology.
In the Garden Grove, California ward he served in the Elders Quorum and Bishopric selling Christmas trees in the ward’s tree lot and walking on stilts dressed as Uncle Sam for the ward’s fireworks lot. If there was a need for help, he was always ready to volunteer. He helped build the ward meeting house and always expressed a desire to build the temple in the New Jerusalem someday. After serving as a Bishop and in the Stake presidency he moved to South Jordan and was promptly called to serve as the mission president for the new Carlsbad California Mission. Those 3 years were the greatest joy of his life. The hundreds of Elders and Sisters there became as beloved to him as the 7 children he had at home. He beamed with joy and pride when they contacted him almost 30 years later. After returning home, he served in the SLC Temple Square mission and worked in the Jordan River Temple as long as he was able. He loved indexing and keeping track of his own family history with 41 grandchildren and 62 great-grandchildren. Thank you dad for setting an example for your children of devoted church service.
When not serving in the church he loved to garden. All his life he planted and preserved fruit and vegetables from his gardens. He loved to make sauerkraut and dried apples. He never did have a garden big enough to use the John Deere tractors that he owned, but he loved to drive them in the city parades.
He taught himself to play the banjo and loved singing the “Good Ole Mountain Dew” song to us as children when we thought it was a song about soda pop. Merlyn and JoAnn loved bluegrass music and enjoyed attending the festivals in the south.
Merlyn could repair and build anything. From adding rooms onto our house to furniture for the house. In later years he loved more delicate wood working and made wooden bowls, rolling pins, and hundreds of wooden pens to give to all his family, including all his missionaries.
Every summer he would load up the family for a 2-week vacation. The first week we spent in Santaquin where he would help his mother around the house and the second week, he would find the most remote place possible to pitch a tent and fish from sunup to sun down. For every meal we had fresh river trout to eat and mosquito bites to itch. After he retired, he bought a 5th wheel and then a camper to travel for longer periods. He and JoAnn travel around the US. He drove the ALCAN highway and visited every temple on the way. He always wanted to drive to the tip of South America. He took trips to Hawaii with his kids to visit Kathy and a Viking River Cruise with Patty. He took Daisy, his dog, with him whenever he could. It was on a trip 4 years ago coming home from Arizona that he ran off the road. He really never recovered all the way but just kept trying. His granddaughter, Ali, her husband Tyler and their children moved into his house to care for him. They made it possible for him to stay in his home until the end, and he valued their companionship. Just weeks before he passed, he remarked, “I have a good life. I’m not alone. I have Ali, Tyler, Fin and Annie here with me all the time.”
We love you dad and we are certain you are just as busy up there as you were down here.