Thursday, September 3, 2009

R.I.P. Merrill Wyble

Merrill's obit is in today's paper here. It had to be cut far more than Bob's did, so I'll put the whole thing here. Granted, with the shrinking news hole, I'm glad they were able to get as much as they were in the print version of the newspaper.

On Aug. 29, the Lansing theater community lost another of its long-time members, the third since the beginning of July.

Merrill Wyble, age 80, died Saturday evening of complications arising from a colon infection. While he’d been ill for several weeks, he was recuperating and had been expected to be released from the hospital when he had to have an emergency colonoscopy Aug. 28.

Wyble was preceded in death by Spotlight founder, director, and theater critic Len Kluge on July 1 and director, actor, and teacher Robert Gras on Aug. 20.

Wyble, who retired in 1991 from the law firm, Church, Wyble, Kritselis & Robinson, PC, where he was a senior partner, was an active volunteer for Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Community Theater Association of Michigan (CTAM), and local theaters. Wyble was a prolific actor who appeared on stages at Lansing Civic Players, Riverwalk, BoarsHead, and Peppermint Creek. His final performance was in Riverwalk’s “Born Yesterday,” in the fall of 2008.

Winifred Olds, who along with her husband Wes and Betty White breakfasted with Wyble every Saturday, said that Wyble had slowed down a little in the past couple years.

“He decided to do smaller parts and to stick close to local theater—Riverwalk and LCP,” said Olds, whose husband Wes had a room at the hospital next to Wyble during his final illness. “We always went to Starlight Dinner Theater together—Merrill, Wes, Betty, and I. We always sat at the same tables so we could talk about the plays.”

Starlight’s Artistic Director, Linda Granger, said that while Wyble was skeptical about the viability of a dinner theater, he came to support it with his active patronage.

“What to me is most memorable about Merrill is that he spoke his mind,” Granger said. “I admire that in people and he was also the first to admit if he was wrong. He told me that my dinner theater would never make it and sent me a nice email some time later saying more or less, ‘I was wrong.’ When Judy Such, his girlfriend, was alive, they attended every single play in the Lansing area. After Judy passed away, Merrill kept going to all the local theaters. He was a regular customer at Starlight and I would see him at LCP or taking tickets at Riverwalk.”

Wyble’s volunteer contributions were many. He served several years on the board of LCP, participated in the Worship Arts team at Good Shepherd, and served on the board and several committees for CTAM.

“He was a good lawyer,” Olds said. “There was a time when he served on the board of LCP that a letter on his letterhead sometimes moved mountains.”

With CTAM, Wyble and his partner of many years, Judy Such, helped to organize retreats at Boyne Mountain and traveled around the state as adjudicators to help develop other community theaters.

“Community theater was his great passion outside of his profession,” CTAM board member Joanne Berry said. “He had a wit and charm about him and a genuine concern for people that drew others to him. He tackled many jobs having to do with community theater with great gusto. You could always depend on him to get done whatever had to be done for the organization.”

Berry said she is certain that people will be remembering and toasting Wyble at their Cadillac conference in late September.

Pastor Roger Straub said Wyble had been attending Good Shepherd for the past 20 years.

“He was very active in a number of areas in our church,” said Straub. “One of the things he brought to us was his interest in theater. He was an active part in the Worship Arts Group, whose purpose was as a group to enhance worship in a number of creative ways.”

Wyble’s eldest son, Rick Wyble, spent much of the last several months with his father. He said his father caught a cold at one of the nursing homes where he volunteered and it attacked his colon.

“He got through the first bout, but when it came back, he was too weak to handle it and became resistant to the antibiotics they were giving him,” Rick Wyble said.

He said that during the past few months in the hospital, he got to hear stories from his father about when he served in the army in Germany and first passed the bar exam. Rick is the oldest of six children and three step-children. Merrill Wyble is also survived by 14 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

The memorial service will be at 11 a.m. Friday at Good Shepherd with visitation an hour before.

“He was very specific on how he wanted it done,” Rick Wyble said. “He left us a letter of what he expects and how it will be done. There was one line in there that, ‘There will be no wailing or gnashing of teeth. It should be a joyous occasion.’”

Rick Wyble expects there will be a large turnout at the service as his father had made friends in many different circles.

“That’s one of the things he enjoyed most after he retired,” Rick Wyble said. “He was able to do everything. It gave him time to social network. He was very active at church, at theater. He got involved in mall walking. He has a circle of friends there, a circle of friends at theater, a circle of friends form his office, another for his family, and another from church.”

As the news spread of Wyble’s death, members of the arts community began their mourning and sharing memories.

“He will be greatly missed,” said Granger. “It saddens me that in the past two months we have lost three men who have been so pivotal in building and sustaining community theaters in the Lansing area.”

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