Dr. George Ellis Merva

August 20, 1932October 31, 2013

DR. GEORGE ELLIS MERVA East Lansing Age 81, passed away on October 30. He was born August 20, 1932, in Guernsey City, OH to John and Julianna (Jugan) Merva. George was raised in Southeastern Ohio coal country, and enlisted in the Army after high school. He went to school through the G.I. bill, and continued on through a Ph.D. program in Agricultural Engineering at Ohio State University. After finishing his Ph.D., George was hired on as faculty at Michigan State University in 1967. He achieved tenure at M.S.U. in 3 years and was promoted to full professor after seven. He took pride in teaching all types of students and classes from remedial math to thermodynamics. George was also an avid musician, playing gigs starting at age 15. His primary instrument was accordion; he also played piano, guitar, and banjo. He loved 40’s ballads, polka music and old standards. His rich, robust bass voice was a staple of the St. Thomas Aquinas choir for more than 40 years. George was introduced to Betty Lou Mnich when she called his household asking him to direct the new church choir at St. Michael’s Byzantine Catholic Church in Pleasant City, OH. He pursued her for two years, after which they wed on October 31, 1959. He never took his eyes off her during their 54 years of marriage. George was a skilled handyman, crossword puzzle aficionado, computer nerd, and card shark. Lucky was the offspring that got to partner with him during intense and raucous family Euchre tournaments. He was a ravenous reader and enjoyed a wide range of arts and entertainment – from Russian literature to Saturday morning Bugs Bunny cartoons. George and Betty loved to travel, and commandeered marathon family cross-country camping trips, in addition to international trips to such locales as Mongolia, Tibet, Nigeria, Slovakia, and the Holy Lands. Most of all, he will be remembered for his life of service. George was a long-standing member of Kiwanis, a founder of the Knights of Columbus St. Thomas Aquinas chapter, a regular reader for WKAR Radio Reading Service for the Blind, and an archivist for Catholic Diocese of Lansing. He was also a frequent musician for nursing homes throughout the Lansing area, using his repertoire of over 1000 songs to create set lists sprinkled with entertaining trivia. He is survived by his loving wife Elizabeth (Betty Lou); four daughters, Bernadette (Eric), Monica (Frank), Jacquelin (Allen), Jennifer (Curtis) and one son, Michael (Lisa); and nine grandchildren. A man of immense faith and devotion to the church, he joyfully looked forward to passing from this life into the next. We are happy for George that his time has come to be with his heavenly Father. Funeral Services will be held 11:00 AM Saturday, November 2 at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, 955 Alton Rd., East Lansing, MI. The family will receive friends Friday, November 1 from 2-4 & 6-8 PM at the Gorsline Runciman Funeral Homes, 1730 E. Grand River Ave., East Lansing; and Saturday from 10 to 11 AM at the church. Donations may be made to the George and Betty Merva Scholarship Fund ( or St. Thomas Aquinas Music Program. On-line condolences may be made at


  • Funeral Service Saturday, November 2, 2013
  • Visitation Friday, November 1, 2013
  • Visitation Friday, November 1, 2013
  • Visitation Saturday, November 2, 2013

Dr. George Ellis Merva

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Doris Petruna Foote

November 12, 2013

Betty, may our Lord Jesus Christ comfort you and your family at this time. May God's love, joy, and peace fill your hearts and renew your strength.
Doris Ann Petruna Foote, formerly of Pleasant City, Ohio

Mike (Ed) Kovalchik

November 12, 2013

Betty Lou, Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. Although we've only had the opportunity to meet a few times over the past 60 yrs.(Pleasant City Alumni Banquets) I always remember you as the babysitter across the street.

November 12, 2013

Betty, Please except my sorrow for your loss. My uncle used to be friends with you many years ago, Leonard Minyo. I remember him speacking of you many times.
Melanie Scurlock


November 9, 2013



November 7, 2013

Betty, we will always recall the good times at the Happy Hoirs at Fun N Sun resort, and Geoges accordion music. Ron & Darra Sandvig.

John Merva

November 6, 2013

Dear Aunt Betty and Cousins, First of all let me express my condolences for your loss. It is so difficult to reconcile the loss of a special loved one. As a youth, I always enjoyed it when Uncle George visited. Intriguing conversation, laughter and often, a polka jam would occur. The fact that my Uncle, who grew up on a farm, could go to college and earn a PhD in engineering and become a college professor was very motivating to me. And that was just the beginning of his accomplishments which were complemented by his exceptional character. I regret that I did not have the opportunity to spend more time with him in my adult life. God Bless all of you as you deal with his passing. I'm sure the Polka jam in heaven in is full swing as Uncle George joins the other family and friends that have gone before him.

Marilee Soltis

November 5, 2013

Dear Betty & family - I am sorry for your loss. George was always a true gentleman. I know it is hard to lose someone so special.

Brad Walker

November 4, 2013

George volunteered at WKAR Radio Reading Service for many years. He will be missed.

Rob Bennett

November 2, 2013

My thoughts and prayers are with you Mike and your family.

Andrew Fogiel

November 2, 2013

George Merva was my mentor at MSU, and his influence went beyond the academic experience. He showed me how someone can approach work, family, and life, and never let one spoil the other. Betty and George opened their home to me as they did for so many whose path crossed theirs, and they really showed me what it means to be part of a community. I cannot thank George, Betty and the entire Merva family enough for the contribution they made to make me the person I am now. George, your professional advise to 'walk the watershed' before 'pushing the pencil' in how to approach engineering is cornerstone to the larger philosophy I try to live up to each day and speaks to the old adage to not judge someone until you have walked a mile in their shoes. God's speed, George, and God bless the Merva family during this time.