Cover photo for Merrill Fitzwater's Obituary
Merrill Fitzwater Profile Photo
1918 Merrill 2018

Merrill Fitzwater

November 9, 1918 — February 4, 2018

Merrill Wayne Fitzwater Wayne was born Nov. 9, 1918 at Greenville, Ohio the youngest son of Jasper and Elsie (Bretz) Fitzwater. The parents were basically farmers until the father went to work for the Pennsylvania Railroad, first at Bradford, Ohio and then out of Columbus, Ohio. In the early 1930’s Jasper lost the greatest part of his left hand and with the compensation of $12,000 received from the Railroad the family moved to a small farm near Greenville. Because of bad association with certain persons involved with “bootleggin” on the part of Jasper. The parents divorced with the only daughter Annabelle, staying with the mother and Wayne went back to the Bretz grandparents farm where he had previously lived, along with older brother Stanley, from 1921 through 1934. The reasoning was that boys should be brought up on a farm. Wayne and Stanley worked studiously at farm chores and work and had intense interest in the Western U.S. During those lingering depression years with little pay and few jobs, both boys trapped furbearers which in about 1934 enabled them each to buy Harley-Davidson motorcycles, with Stanley first riding west and then Wayne. Both boys found the west fascinating, but Stanley worked at tree trimming in Ohio and during WWII he went to India as a hydraulic specialist at an airfield. Wayne went to Montana in 1936 and worked on the Huntley irrigation project in Yellowstone County. From that location the Beartooth Mountains could be seen on a clear day and with the mountains calling he went to the Gallatin Canyon area and worked for the U.S.F.S. until going into the Army in 1941. Wayne was assigned to the First Infantry Division known as “The Big Red One” and went to England for additional training. He saw combat action in the European Theater and received gunshot wounds to the chest, left side and a serious wound to his left leg. Wayne received the Purple Heart, Bronze Star and Combat Infantry Badge. After his military discharge Wayne worked with his brother in a tree-trimming business for a while, was married in 1944 and fathered twin daughters, Bette Lou and Sandra Sue. That marriage ended in divorce with Wayne getting full custody of the daughters. With the difficulty of caring for the very young daughters and securing no reliable baby-sitter and working regularly at tree-trimming Wayne’s sister, who was married but childless, asked to take the daughters for rearing. Not too long afterward Wayne was offered a Montana job with the U.S.F. Service. Again, in the Gallatin Canyon area, and moved there in 1948. In 1949 Wayne was offered advancement with the Forest Service on the job as a Montana Game Warden. Having always had an interest in the outdoors and wildlife he was hired as a game warden and worked as such until his retirement in 1978. In 1952 Wayne married again and a daughter Lorri Anne was born, when he was assigned the Dillon, Montana district where he also retired. Again, that marriage ended in divorce after about fifteen years. Wayne married Alice Burwell in 1973 with that marriage continuing until April of 2005 when she passed. Wayne in survived by his daughters Bette Lou and Lorri Anne, grandsons Justin, Brandon and Zachery, numerous nephews, nieces and cousins. He requested burial at Dillon, Montana with no funeral services and any memorials go to the Deer Lodge, Montana Law Enforcement Museum or the Beaverhead County, Montana Museum. Wife Alice requested burial at Medford, Oregon beside her first husband Orville, the father of her only sons.
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