Merle Andrew Blong
Merle Andrew Blong passed away on the morning of November 11, 2020, after a struggle with Alzheimer’s disease and the rapid onset of the COVID-19 virus. Merle was born on December 12, 1933 in St. Lucas, Iowa to parents Luke John Blong and Agnes Ann Ditzenbach. His family lived and farmed east of St. Lucas in the Driftless Area near the confluence of Bass Creek with Sugar Creek. This beautiful landscape was historically part of the Winnebago Indian Subagency in the 1840s.
Merle attended St. Luke’s School from 1938 to 1946. He was a very hard worker and enjoyed working on the farm. Merle was at his best while performing outdoor tasks instead of going to school. Merle’s greatest enjoyments were hunting, fishing, and observing wildlife.
Merle loved the natural beauty of the Mississippi River region. Merle eventually purchased land on the Mississippi River near Twin Bluffs and built a beautiful A-frame home that he called Twin Oaks. Merle’s escape was spending many long hours on his deck watching nature on the river. Merle enjoyed fishing almost daily, either from his boat or from the dock.
After long hours of working, Merle enjoyed watching Major League Baseball. Merle grew up playing softball and baseball. His favorite team was the Los Angeles Dodgers and was a life- long Dodgers fan. A big highlight in his life was in 1955 when the Dodgers finally beat the Yankees in the World Series.
As a newly married man in 1955, Merle was a hard worker at the Rath Packing Company and later at John Deere Tractor Works in Waterloo, IA. These jobs were Merle’s bread and butter income to raise his family, but he had bigger plans of becoming a business owner.
Merle started Blong’s Tree Service as a part-time business in New Hampton, IA. Merle’s strong determination and rambunctious approach to life helped his tree service business grow quickly. In 1967 Merle moved his family to Winona, MN, where he grew his business base and rapidly expanded Blong’s Tree Service.
Merle’s strong work ethic and dedication led to the 60 years of success for his business. Merle’s business grew and so did his renown as a tree expert. Merle worked extremely difficult tree removal jobs and prided himself on his ability to work many different challenging local, state and utility tree service jobs in the Upper Mississippi River region.
Merle also participated in the biannual American Arborist Association volunteer effort to trim trees and shrubs at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. Merle, assisted by his brothers Glenn and Clair, enjoyed this volunteer service to honor the nation’s military veterans buried there.
Merle loved his church in Winona. His strong faith in the Lord was evident. Merle took pride in arriving early at church after long hours of work to attend Mass on Saturday afternoons at the Basilica of St. Stanislaus Kostka in Winona, MN.
Merle loved to travel and took cruises or trips to Florida, the Panama Canal, Mexico and Alaska. His last major trip was in January 2018 with his son Dana and brothers Clair and Glenn, to various Caribbean islands and Cuba. Merle’s love for nature was evident in his trout pond and his desire to someday live in the wilderness of Alaska. His desire to work outdoors and see the countryside and wildlife was his daily enjoyment.
Merle is survived by his children, Debra Burke of Winona, Darcy (Kim) O’Laughlin of Minnesota City, Dana (Vickie) Blong of Winona, and Darla Heimer of Winona. Merle’s grandchildren include: Logan Burke, Kristin Rodgers, Kyle O’Laughlin, Corey O’Laughlin, Natasha Blong, Tanner Blong, Dustin Heimer and Dylan Blong, and his ten great-grandchildren.
Merle is survived by his sister, Phyllis (Richard) Orthaus of New Hampton, Iowa, brother Clair Blong of Fort Atkinson, Iowa, and Glenn (Jane) Blong of Marco Island, Florida. Merle was preceded in death by his parents, Luke and Agnes Blong, brother Clyde Blong, his former wife, Rose Marie Panoch Blong, grandson, Ian Burke and great-grandson, Quinn Burke.
Visitation will be held on Friday, November 20, 2020 from 3 pm to 6 pm at Watkowski-Mulyck Funeral Home at 376 E. Sarnia St., Winona, MN 55987. Those attending will be required to wear a mask and to follow social distancing guidelines. At a later date, a memorial mass and burial service will be held at St. Luke’s Church and Cemetery in St. Lucas, Iowa.
A Merle Blong Memorial Fund has been established with the St. Lucas Historical Society. The family asks that donations in Merle’s honor be sent to: St. Lucas Historical Society, PO Box 295, St. Lucas, IA 52166.
Please visit www.watkowski-mulyck.com to view Merle’s tribute video, or to leave online condolences or memories.
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