Merlin S. Hegge, age 89, Orfordville, passed away Monday, Aug. 19, 2019 at Mercy Hospital. He was born in Janesville, November 29, 1929, the son of Lewis and Aggie (Olmstead) Hegge. Merlin married Dorothy Hahn at Christ Lutheran Church in Clinton on Aug. 28, 1954. She preceded him in death on Aug. 21, 2004.
Merlin was born into a strong Norwegian family, speaking the language and enjoying the food and baked goods all his life. He attended Fisher School through 8th grade and then joined his father and uncles on the homestead farm, which is now a Century Farm. He later worked at the feed mill in Orfordville before applying at General Motors. He greeted the interviewer with “Good Morning”, which earned him the job, and this has been his greeting ever since. He retired from GM after 25 years. He also worked with Newcomer Ambulance Service and later Newcomer Funeral Home, and was a driver for Burtness Chevrolet.
Merlin served his country in the United States Army during the Korean War as a member of the tank battalion. He was a member of the Orfordville American Legion Post 209, and looked forward each year to selling beer tickets at the June Days celebration. In 2012, he went on the VetsRoll trip to Washington D.C., and the highlight was seeing his picture on the Korean War Veterans Memorial.
Merlin was a member of the Orfordville Fire Department and EMS for over 60 years. Early on, all emergency calls came through the “Red Phone” in his house, and he was an ambulance driver. His knowledge of the area and Norwegian speaking greatly aided on calls in the rural Orfordville area. He also served as Secretary of the Fire Department for several years.
Merlin was a member of Plymouth 4-H and later a project leader and club chairman. He is a past Rock County 4-H Fair Board member, and was awarded the Friend of the Fair award by the Rock County 4-H Fair Alumni Association. He served as night watchman for the fair for over 50 years. He took great pride in this role, and his family took great pride in assisting him with this role. He was a fixture at Gate 3 every morning, greeting kids as they came to work with their animals, and he was an ambassador for the fair and 4-H.
Merlin loved being in the heart of Orfordville, eating at the Cozy Corner and K’s Outback, and driving around town in his MDH 54 van or his power scooter. He dressed up as Santa’s helper for community events and sold raffle tickets at the Orfordville Children’s Christmas Benefit. He helped till and roll the cinder track at Parkview High School and took great pride in the state championship teams that benefitted from his work. He and Dorothy were June Days Parade planners and served as Parade Marshalls. He exhibited antiques at the Walworth County Fair, and was an avid supporter of local fairs, festivals, and parades. He also enjoyed attending church dinners and bazaars.
Merlin’s biggest passion was his family. He was proud of his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, and took great pride in their accomplishments. He loved watching their school activities, seeing their 4-H projects at the fair, and attending their sporting events. He also enjoyed the Christmas Eve tradition of being together and making the evening last.
Merlin is survived by his son, Jon (Laura) Hegge; daughter, Karen (Todd) Phalin; five grandchildren: Kiara (Zachary) Krohn, Trista Hegge (Josh Trunkhill), Britta (Evan) Baumberger, and Michael and Billy Phalin; five great-grandchildren: Anika, Liam, Eastyn, Jude, and Reid; siblings-in-law: Richard (Beverly) Hahn, Raymond (Marje) Hahn, Donald (Sally) Hahn, and Virginia (Marvin) Schuettpelz; several nieces and nephews; and special cousin Elsie (Roland) Mathewson. He was preceded in death by his parents and his wife, Dorothy.
Funeral services were held on Saturday, Aug. 24, at Luther Valley Lutheran Church, 7107 S. Luther Valley Road, Beloit with Pastor Larry Froemming officiating. Visitation was on Friday, Aug. 23 at Newcomer-Silverthorn Chapel on the Hill, 3008 S. Coon Island Road, Orfordville and again on Saturday until the time of the service at the church.
Burial will be in Luther Valley Cemetery.
Mange takk (many thanks) to Dustin and Sheryl Lloyd and family, Debbie Goznikar and the staff at K’s Outback, Orfordville EMS, Dawn Muenchow, and the staff at Mercy Hospital and Mercy Hospice for the wonderful care and support given to Merlin
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Merlin Hegge Memorial Fund, which will be established to fund an award to a Rock County 4-H Fair animal exhibitor.