Esther “Eppie” Martha Gruling

Esther “Eppie” Martha Gruling, age 90, of Wausau, passed away on November 16, 2023, at Aspirus Hospice House. Eppie was born on November 14, 1933, to the late Fred and Louisa (Kienbaum) Schulz, in Merrill, Wisconsin. She was a twin (Edna) and the youngest of 9 children. Born at home prematurely, she was so small that she slept in a cigar box and wore her grandmother’s wedding ring as a bracelet. Amazingly, she survived. Eppie attended Trinity Lutheran School in Merrill through grade 8. She then attended Merrill High School, where she was a member of the female honors society Athenians and the Acme news staff, and graduated with the class of 1951. Eppie was employed in a variety of positions over the years, with her last being an administrative assistant at the Ranger Station in Merrill. She took great care of “her guys.” Eppie’s favorite role was that of mother and wife, staying home to raise her children for over a decade.

Eppie met the love of her life, Robert “Bob” Gruling, in 1950 at her sister’s wedding. They courted for five years before marrying on June 11, 1955, at Trinity Lutheran Church in Merrill. Together, over the next 63 years, they formed an inseparable bond that created four children and thousands of friendships along the way. Their house on Merrill’s west side was always a welcoming place for some “Gemütlichkeit” for all who stopped in to visit.

Eppie was very active in the Merrill community and beyond. She was involved in the Beta Sigma Phi Sorority, Red Hats, MAPS Reading Buddies, 4-H as a project leader, AFS, Merrill Historical Society, Merrill Riders, Pommerscher Verein of Central Wisconsin (founding member), Lincoln County Democratic Party, River Bend Trail, as well as many others. Eppie was a member of St. Stephen’s United Church of Christ, where she served in numerous capacities. We cannot forget her blue ribbon pickles, other canned items, baked goods, best-of-show flower arrangements, and other awards over the years at the fair. 

Eppie was selected for the 2020 Silver Pageant, having been nominated for her “Gemütlichkeit,” which translated from German describes exceptional hospitality. Her hospitality extended to family, friends, coworkers, new acquaintances, and international guests. Accepting everyone, she was kind and loving to all whom she met. Everyone was comfortable around her; for many, she was a second mother or grandmother. She was a kind, generous woman and the ultimate host and friend.

Eppie enjoyed cooking, baking, sewing, decorating, volunteering, reading, watching her children and grandchildren in their activities, traveling around the world, developing new friendships, hosting international students and teachers, and entertaining. She also provided incredible support to her husband and family in all their endeavors.

Eppie is survived by her four children Mary Beth (John) Robinson, Wausau, Robert John “BJ” Gruling (partner Richard Clark), Whitefish Bay, Timothy Paul (Tammy Oberg) Gruling, Merrill, and Kay Ann Gruling (Timothy Buttke), Wausau; seven grandchildren Christopher “CJ” (Malia) Robinson, Michael Robinson (partner Ali Norgel), Minneapolis, Elizabeth Robinson, Wausau, Zachary (Stephanie) Gruling, Wausau, Alex (Dana) Gruling, Merrill, Calla Buttke, Wausau, Isaac (Morgan) Buttke, Tampa, FL; thirteen great-grandchildren Pax, Rehgan, Harper, Flynn, and Ivy Robinson, Cooper, Macon, and Ryker Gruling, Lexi Haas, Gavin, Silas, and Watson Gruling, and Navya Buttke-Gill; many cherished nieces, nephews, other relatives, and friends. Additionally, she is survived by her ‘children and grandchildren’ from Denmark, France, Germany, and Montenegro.

She was preceded in death by her parents and eight siblings Fredrick Schulz, Stella Bonke, Gladys Aschbrenner, Herbert Schulz, Roy Schulz, Louise Reichelt, Valentine Schulz, and Edna Schulz as well as their spouses.

A Memorial Service and Celebration of Life will be held on Sunday, December 10th at noon at St. Stephen’s United Church of Christ, Merrill. Visitation will be held on Saturday, December 9th from 3-6 PM at St. Stephen’s, and again from 11 AM-noon on Sunday, December 10th.

Memorials may be directed to the “Gruling Family Playground at the Agra Pavilion” (1100 Marc Drive, Merrill, WI 54452; Checks may be written to the City of Merrill with “Gruling Family Playground at the Agra Pavilion” in the memo) or the charity of your choice.

Waid Funeral Home & Cremation Service of Merrill is assisting the family with arrangements. Online condolences may be made at

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