Merton N. Lovell – Millard County Chronicle Progress
Dec 6, 1930 ~ April 11, 2022
The never-to-be-forgotten man with the big smile, the distinctive walk, and his funny stories wore his last pair of red socks Monday, April 11, 2022.
He slept away peacefully at home. Merton Nielson Lovell was born December 6, 1930, in Oak City, Utah to Reed and Zella Lovell. He attended Oak City Elementary and graduated from Delta High School in 1949. Mert said he didn’t have the “foggiest” idea of what he would do with his life next. His brother Neil attended Dixie Junior College and told Mert that he would get a scholarship if he chose to go there. President Glenn E. Snow agreed. Mert only bought one book that year but enjoyed playing baseball for the college for which he got his one A.
He was then called on a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Eastern Canada. In Ottawa, he played basketball two winters with the team of Mormon Elders. After returning home, he was drafted and spent 15 months in Korea. serving in the US Base Post Office in Pusan.
When he came home he discovered that there were few datable girls so his cousin, Steve, had him pick out a girl from the yearbook and Steve got him a blind date with Lael Hilton. They dated while she finished high school and while she attended BYU the next year. Mert went back to Dixie Junior College where he graduated with an associate degree. Courting from St. George to Provo was challenging, but they were married in the Manti Temple on June 21, 1956.
He wanted to go to Utah State but in order to stay married, he went to BYU with Lael where he graduated with his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in history and political science. Lee Hafen, Dixie’s history teacher, passed away so Mert was hired over the phone to replace him. In January 1960 they moved to St. George and he began teaching at the combined Dixie High and Dixie College.
His 32 years of teaching included 24 years at Dixie High School, four years at Pine View High School, and four years at Pine View Middle School, retiring in 1991. He taught US History, American Problems, and Consumer Math, but his greatest joy was being an assistant football and basketball coach. They took state four times in football and once in basketball. His coaching included sleeping on a double bed with Walt Brooks at the Roberts Hotel in Provo and converting Don Lay to shopping at DI. He didn’t share many details about being head tennis coach because as he said “I didn’t know what the deuce love had to do with tennis.”. Mert shared his love for and knowledge of athletics with his students. He often diagramed plays on the chalkboard. Once when Superintendent Peterson came into his classroom, the diagramed football play turned into the battle lines of the Civil War. It says a lot about what a well-loved teacher he was because his students never called him Mr. Lovell. It was always Mert with everyone. One of his students who is also a teacher and called himself the “Official Spokesman of the Little People” said,
“We give them an education to enhance their lives, to allow them to see things differently, to bring meaning to what they see and experience. To make them better people. That’s what you did for me.” His best friend was Wally Mathis whom he taught with, coached with, and worked with on the Arizona Strip for many years. He was always there for Mert except when Mert had to talk at his funeral instead of the other way around as planned. The tradition of his wearing only red socks came about after he talked at a pep assembly and told the students that he’d be stomping on Cedar Redmen all night.
After a son got the parents involved in a convenience store, Mert’s students suggested it be named Mert’s Place. After school, he’d cook a little chicken and fast food there and would stock the cooler shelves at night when he locked up. At first, he also put some of his school teaching salary in to help pay the bills at the store. He often said it wouldn’t be so bad working there if you didn’t have to pay for it. But he enjoyed seeing many of his former students and making new friends there.
For twelve summers, Mert worked on the fire crews for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on the Arizona Strip. He also was director of the Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) for five summers there.
His church life reflects his school life; most all of it had to do with the younger generation. He had a strong testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ and like Christ, he always searched out the one. He was a counselor in a bishopric as well as a bishop of a college ward, a transient bishop, and a bishop of a regular ward. He said they were as different as the three degrees of glory. He served in the Dixie College Stake for over 12 years. He also served as financial clerk, stake auditor, a counselor in a bishopric, on two high councils, and as a member of a stake presidency, along with numerous teaching calls. Later he taught the 11-year-old Blazers whom he called undisciplined knot heads. Mert and Lael served in the office of the California San Fernando mission with President Steven Snow, whom he’d taught and coached in high school.
Mert is survived by his wife Lael, their four children, Randy (Kaylene), Scott (Liz), and Shannon all of St. George and Terry (Kerry) of Orlando, Florida, and many loving relatives. He also has eight grandchildren and one great granddaughter. He was preceded in death by his parents, his brothers Bruce, Neil, and baby Dan, and a sister, Merlene Schmutz.
Funeral services will be held Saturday, April 23, at 11 am at the LDS St. George East Stake Center, 449 p. 300 E. Viewings will be held Friday from 5 to 7 pm at Spilsbury Mortuary and Saturday from 9 until 10:30 at the chapel. Burial will be in the Pine Valley Cemetery at about 3:30 pm Live streaming of the service will be available at http://bit.ly/stakecenter. In lieu of flowers, please give a flower or a hug to a loved one or contribute to the Humanitarian Fund of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Memories can be shared at Memories of Mert.
Arrangements are made under the direction of Spilsbury Mortuary, 110 S Bluff Street, St. George, Utah. 435-673-2454. Family and friends are invited to sign Mert’s online guest book at www.spilsburymortuary.com.