Obituary: Thurston Merriman

Mon, 01/23/2012 - 2:48pm

Thurston Sibley Merriman of Hamden, Conn., and Block Island died on January 5 at the age of 93. Thurston, known as “Shorty,” was born on January 25, 1918, in New Haven, Conn. After spending his early years in Alton, Ill., he moved to Seymour, Conn., with his family. There he and his brother Curtiss were the first brothers to become Eagle Scouts in the State of Connecticut.

Upon graduating from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1939 with a degree in metallurgy, he began working for Scovill Manufacturing Company and continued there for 35 years. In 1940 he married the love of his life, Nina Pantanella of Cambridge, Mass. They moved to Cheshire, Conn., in 1946 and lived there until 2000 when they moved to Larson Place in Hamden, Conn.

Thurston was a very active citizen of Cheshire in the days when being a good citizen required attendance at town meetings. He never hesitated to speak his mind or to write a concise letter to the editor. He was an early advocate for sound planning and zoning before they were considered necessary. Thurston served on the board of the Visiting Nurse’s Association and also on the Board of Education for many years. In the 1960s, during his tenure as Chairman of the Cheshire Board of Education, he worked with the superintendent of schools to establish a preschool testing program to identify children with special needs.

Shorty first came to Block Island with his father to fish the local waters. He became an avid fisherman and into his late 70s he could often be found at summer dusk and dawn surf casting at Black Rock, Sandy Point or Southwest Point. His grandparents had vacationed on Block Island during the heydays of the late 1800s and his parents had honeymooned here in 1912.

Shorty took his young family to Block Island in 1949, vacationing at Sunnyside on Grace’s Cove Road. The family spent many two week vacations at Niles Spring Farm on Middle Pond and later loved staying at Cottage Farm, enjoying Sveda Gravel’s wonderful hospitality. In the late 1960s during a stay at the Spring House, Shorty finally purchased property on the Prue Lot. Planning and building his Block Island home was his favorite project, and he eventually did all the finishing work himself. In his final years, when no longer able to fish, he took great pleasure sitting on his deck simply enjoying the birds.

He is survived by his wife, Nina, and daughters Nina Fedalen of Silver Spring, Md., Susan Licht and her husband Arnold Licht of Brooklyn, N.Y., and Block Island, and Louise Elliott of Middletown, Conn., as well as six grandchildren and five great grandchildren. He was pre-deceased by sons-in-law Stuart Elliott and Richard Fedalen. A memorial service will be held at a date yet to be determined.