Fotos from the Past
Researched by Michael J. Caylor Jr.
Lots of comings and goings from the Merrill Airport this past week. Santa Claus made the first of many visits to Merrill as he prepares for his big run on Christmas. John E. Chimel, a Merrill Airways employee, flew Santa in this past Friday afternoon straight from the North Pole. The event was part of the kick off to the Christmas shopping season and was organized by the Merrill Chamber. Some anxious moments were had at the airport as a new batch of snow coated the runways and looked as if it would prevent the Jolly fellow from landing, however John Hatz was able to plow a runway just in time for the1:30 arrival. About 100 had gathered to wait St. Nick. After greeting his fans at the airport Santa rode through town in convertible, stopping to greet children and handing out candy in three store parking lots. Stores will now be open Monday, Wednesday and Friday until 9:00 PM, and as Christmas draws near they will remain open every night until 9:00 PM for local shoppers.
In other airport news, Lyman Hatz, son of airport manager John Hatz made his first solo flight at the earliest opportunity – his 16th birthday. FAA regulations prohibit solo aircraft flights for anyone under that age, and Hatz didn’t wait for the candles on his cake to be go cool before he headed out to the sky. Hatz chose an open cockpit plane built by his father who is an active member of the Experimental Aircraft Association. (Wonder how big his beard was at 16?)
The nine day gun deer hunt was marred by the death of an Oshkosh man hunting in the Town of Spirit Falls. John Pucci, 27, was shot in the leg by a member of his hunting party this past Thursday morning. He was taken to Sacred Heart before being rushed to Wausau North Hospital and eventually being transferred to University Hospital at Madison. Pucci died there Saturday afternoon. He was one of 24 hunters shot and killed during the season, and ten more died of apparent heart attacks. The game wardens at Merrill reported the deer kill was down this past year as compared to 1969, however heavy snow over the last week contributed to the poor numbers.
The Merrill Chamber has a new home. Dee Olsen, executive vice president of the organization, oversaw the move this past week from the Lincoln House to the new office at 200 N. Center Ave. Olsen explained the floor size at its new location is about the same as 120 S. Mill St, however the group will now have access to a large conference room in the basement of the new building.
Current Fire Chief Ray Priebe and Chief-Designate Harvey Emanuel announced today that Doug Brandt has been appointed to the Merrill Fire Department. Brandt, 22, is enrolled in the fire service program at NTC. The Police and Fire Commission recommended Brandt for the appointment. They will meet again next week to discuss an open deputy chief position, for which there are three applicants.
The Merrill Common Council voted last night to increase the net tax rate more than 9%. The rate for $100,000 would be $33.46 compared with $30.70 a year ago. Mayor Richard Holt pointed out that of every dollar you pay in property taxes, .39 cents go to the school, 36 to the city and 20 cents to the county with the remainder going to the vocational technical education district. City Treasurer Al Saeger will prepare tax bills in the coming weeks with expected mailing to occur on December 26th. The council also increased the cost of a parking ticket from .50 to $1 with the fine going to $5 if not paid within 48 hours, established a plan commission to address the need for stop lights in the city with the first planned intersection being N Center and Third St, and increased the fare for the Merrill Go Round. The Council also ratified the appointment of Harvey Emanuel as fire chief and extended their thanks and best wishes to retiring Fire Chief Ray Priebe who will retire after 31 years of service with 14 as chief.
Members of the Lincoln County Board and the Merrill Historical Society is hoping donated funds can help them restore the Lincoln County Court House. The building has suffered water damage through the years and old paint, smoke, grime and boarded up windows have turned what was once a showcase into an aging relic. Judge J. Michael Nolan expressed his desire to see the painted murals in the court room back into shape noting that attorneys from out of town often bring along their spouses so they can see what a “real court room” looks like. Ground was first broke on the building in May of 1901 with plans for its completion by September of 1902, however, labor strikes delayed the procurement of materials setting the project back one full year. (Which explains why the bricks are two different shades from the first to second floor) The building itself cost $119,882 to build, and it is estimated it will cost $45,000 to fully restore just the murals. Alice F. Krueger, president of the historical society, said she believes that in order to attract more people to Merrill we need to give them something to look at. She is hoping to raise $100,000 for the restoration project.
A mentor too many area youth has died suddenly. Sgt. Robert J. Hartkopf, 40, a juvenile officer with the Lincoln County Sheriff’s, died suddenly yesterday while officiating a basketball game at St John’s School. Hartkopf was very active in youth sports in the area, serving as a coach, referee, and umpire besides his duties in law enforcement. Many off duty police and fire department members who were present at the game began CPR on Hartkopf who complained of feeling ill right before he collapsed as he walked off the gym floor. He was also past president of the Merrill Catholic School Board, and he had served Lincoln County since 1975. He is survived by his wife Patricia and son Michael. Funeral services will be Friday at St. Francis Church.