Richard James Merkley

Richard James Merkley, age 65 passed away on January 30th, 2020 following a lengthy, fierce battle with mesothelioma.

I was born in the mid 50’s in Denver Colorado, the middle of seven kids, and loved growing up next to the Rocky Mountains where I spent much of my time as a youth mountain climbing, caving, skiing, hunting and fishing. Following graduation from Colorado State University with a degree in horticulture, I wanted some adventure in my life before settling down to a steady job and so enlisted in the Peace Corps, and served on the island of Grenada in the West Indies working as a sugarcane agronomist. The friendly people, breathtaking scenery, exotic food and gorgeous climate as well as the Cuban revolution made for an unforgettable experience. The 2-1/2 years that I spent down there was some of the best times of my life and was truly an adventure which I enjoyed every minute of.

Health issues forced me to return home in December of 1980, and after a long recovery I took a position as a facility manager at an ag chemical warehouse in Delta CO. This is where I met my beautiful future wife Dawn and our relationship bloomed while traveling throughout the Northwest U.S. After getting married I started a career in ag chemical sales beginning North Platte NE, then Sioux City IA, and ten years later found us settled in Rochester MN with Allison and our son Andy and the youngest daughter Lauren in tow. I changed careers in 2000 and went to work in sales for Geotek – a fiberglass manufacturing company for the next seventeen years. I truly found my calling there and got enormous satisfaction from my job.

After moving to Rochester, Dawn and I purchased a small, undeveloped acreage and proceeded to create our dream hobby farm and arboretum that we named Cranberry Crossing. We spent the next twenty years having a blast designing and planting fruit orchards, building bee hives, creating vegetable and flower gardens and landscaping our blank pallet. Eventually we became vendors at the Rochester Downtown Farmers market where we sold a huge variety of fruit, vegetable and honey products for fifteen years. I loved the comradeship and friendship of the other vendors and market patrons, and I look fondly at the many good times we had there.

In 2012 Dawn and I split off two acres of land from our property to build our retirement “Dream Home” smack in the middle of our orchard. We had hoped to stay in our new home for decades, sadly this was not to be. Fortunately I have very few regrets. Primarily I regret not having more time to spend with my surviving family (my dad passed away in 1993). I am leaving behind my mother, Edith, sisters Diane, Mary Jo (Roger), Julie, Sue (Karl) as well as my brothers John (Anne) and Jim (Lori). I have cherished every moment that I have had the privilege of spending with Dawn, my best friend and soul mate, as well as our amazing children Allison (Andy), Andy and Lauren.

A private living celebration of life was held this past summer. Memories or condolences welcome at

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