Lawrence M. Merin

July 5, 1951November 7, 2012

Lawrence Mitchell Merin

Lawrence Mitchell Merin, a beloved family man and gifted photographer whose work improved the lives of others, died Wednesday, Nov. 7, at home. He was 61.

Larry was the founder and director of the Vanderbilt Ophthalmic Imaging Center at Vanderbilt University and an assistant professor of ophthalmology. Through the center’s program, Larry and his staff took their cameras to every county in Tennessee, screening indigent and uninsured patients for diabetic retinopathy, a condition that leads to blindness. It was the first fully mobile service of its kind.

A Detroit native, Larry developed an early interest in photography, and studied mass communications and photography at Wayne State University, where he earned a baccalaureate with honors. Larry’s career as an ophthalmic photographer and instructor included positions at Sinai Hospital of Detroit, Riverside Community Hospital, Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock.

While in Riverside, Larry met and married the love of his life, the former Becky Vazquez. The couple celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary Sept. 4. Upon joining Vanderbilt in Nashville in 2000, Larry obtained the support and funding to start the Vanderbilt Ophthalmic Imaging Center. A leading expert in his field, he contributed to textbooks and professional journals, and taught courses in the United States as well as in Poland, England, Scotland, Italy, Japan and Singapore. He was a registered biological photographer, a fellow and former president of the Ophthalmic Photographers Society and a fellow of the Institute of Medical Illustrators in London. Other affiliations included the American Academy of Ophthalmology. During his career, he earned numerous certifications and awards. Larry’s photography extended beyond the medical field, and he had several exhibits through the years, including one of Vietnam War protest photos taken when he marched as a protester in Washington. For the bicentennial of his mother’s hometown of Wardsville, Canada, Larry took portraits of every resident for a time capsule that will be opened in 2110.

A loving father, husband and brother, Larry was devoted to his family. He served on the advisory board of the Choral Arts Link/MET Singers Honor Choir of Metro Nashville Public Schools, and he provided leadership as a committee member for Boy Scout Troop 3 in East Nashville, where his son, David, is an Eagle Scout. He also was a community steering committee member of the Tennessee State University Prostate Cancer Screening Barriers Study; an associate member of Grupo Comunitario Hispano de Tennessee; and an associate member of the Nashville Latino Health Council. He was an avid reader, car enthusiast and model railroader, and he enjoyed chasing steam locomotives. Larry had a lively sense of humor and a passion for social justice, and he was a proud survivor of breast cancer.

Larry was preceded in death by his parents, Anne Gayle and Earl Merin. He is survived by his wife, Rebecca Ruth Merin, daughter, Sydney Rachel Merin, and son, David Alexander Merin, all of Nashville; sister, Elaine Merin Perri of Chicago; mother-in-law and father-in-law Esther and John Cervantes of Riverside, Calif.; three sisters-in-law, Julie (Doug) King, Riverside, Calif., Anna (Mike) Lemos, Venture, Calif., and Debra Vazquez, San Diego, Calif.; and many nieces, nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews.

The funeral service and burial will be at 1 p.m. Sunday,Nov. 11 with Congregation Micah, 2001 Old Hickory Blvd., Brentwood, TN 37027. After the service, the family will receive friends at home.

Gifts in memory of Lawrence M. Merin may be made in support of the Vanderbilt Eye Institute and sent to Vanderbilt University, Gift Processing, PMB 407727, 2301 Vanderbilt Place, Nashville, TN 37240-7727.


  • Funeral Service Sunday, November 11, 2012

Lawrence M. Merin

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January 3, 2013

I am saddened to hear of the loss of my dear friend and mentor, Larry. He has been my tele-ophthalmolgy mentor for 12 years. I last spoke to him in August. He informed me, then, of the battle which lie ahead for him. My sincere sympathy to his family. Larry was a kind and generous friend. We used to call each other "cuz" (cannot remember how it ever started:)
Peace and love to my cuz, Larry
Abby Guiver
Arizona Foundation for Eye Health
Phoenix, Az.

Romona Davis

November 28, 2012

I was a second year medical student in Little Rock when Larry showed facinating pictures he had taken of patients eyes. He told amazing stories as he taught...some that I remember more than 10 years later. Now as an ophthalmologist, I recognize the true gift and love that he brought to his work. I consider it an honor to have been one of his students.

Marsha Hines

November 28, 2012

Dearest Becky, Sydney and David,
I am devastated by the news I just received - I cannot believe that Larry is gone. He was the bright spot at the Jones Eye Institute and I enjoyed every moment we shared working together. His talent was enormous and so was his spirit. Larry and I used to laugh and say that we were "twins separated at birth" but I would quickly add that "he got the brains." I have never known a kinder, more thoughtful gentleman in every sense of the word. I still proudly display two of Larry's photos in my office and I treasure them just as I shall treasure the memory of his friendship. Please know that my thoughts are with you and give my sincere condolences to his "much adored" sister. With all my love, Marsha

Julie bryer

November 12, 2012

So sorry to hear about the passing of your beloved husband. I regret that I did not know until today so I missed the service. My thoughts and prayers are with you during this difficult time.

Julie Bryer

Sandy Atkinson

November 12, 2012

Becky and family,

I was so sorry to hear of Larry's passing. Gerry informed me by email right as I was headed out of town for a cousin's funeral. You couldn't have asked for a more patient, loving and consderate boss/instructor/friend. I was very proud of the work he taught me. Give big hugs to your children and know I will think of you often. Your indomitable spirit will keep you going.

Sandy Atkinson

November 11, 2012

I offer my most sincere condolences to the family and those who knew him so well. My prayers are with you.

Nancy Mason (UNHS, Nashville, TN)

Gerry Skews

November 9, 2012

I am so sorry to hear about Larry, he was a visionary, a campaigner and a good man, that is a great legacy and one that few can truly claim. In addition I am proud to call him my friend, he was a wonderful man to know and I appreciated his friendship, humor and guidance while I lived in the US. I will miss you Larry and I will be thinking of him, Becky, Sydney and David on Sunday. Thank you Larry for being my friend.

Pat Saine

November 9, 2012

Larry was a compassionate ophthalmic photographer. He was active in OPS, serving on Boards, helping organize ICOP meetings, writing articles and chapters. He was active in developing the use of digital imaging screen and follow diabetic retinopathy. He was always ready with a good word; he was positive and encouraging. His method of working with people was about finding a way to move ahead together, as opposed to pushing his own specific agenda.

I'll miss Larry. We met by chance at a jazz bar in Chicago at my first AAO meeting. We ended up rooming together at countless OPS Board meetings. Flooded showers; middle of the night fire alarms; one time, I was checking the hotel room drawers while packing and found one full of Larry's dirty clothes. I called to make sure they were his (what color are your boxers?), found a box and mailed them out to him. We always talked about our families and his health when we got together. His family came later in his life than he would have planned, but he still had plenty of time to give and receive their unconditional love and support. When we had free time at meetings, we used to visit local galleries with photography shows. Larry taught me about a lot of things besides ophthalmic photography. He introduced me to well pressed shirts and to fountain pens. Larry owned a little car that went fast. He let me know that life is short, and that we should always make the best of whatever situation we find ourselves in. I'll miss Larry, but I will think of him and the good things he did on a regular basis.

Billie Odom

November 9, 2012

I am very sorry for your loss. Please know that your family is in my thoughts and prayers.

Tina Alston

November 9, 2012

Larry's kindness to JWayne Biggers both during their work with Scout Troop 3 and in reaching out at JWayne's memorial reflected a lifetime of Righteousness. I'll always recall him tooling around in that little convertible.