Private services for Merritt C. Warren, age 97, of Creighton, Nebraska will be Saturday, October 17, 2020, at Faith United Church in Creighton. Reverend Bev Hieb and Pastor Cathy Cole will officiate, with burial in Greenwood Cemetery in Creighton.
Military Honors will be provided by Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1151, American Legion Post 74, and United States Navy Honor Guard.
Visitation will be Friday from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. at Brockhaus Funeral Home in Creighton.
Social distancing guidelines will be followed. Masks are requested.
Merritt died Saturday, October 10, at his residence.
Merritt Cleveland Warren was born September 28, 1923, in Ulysses, Nebraska, to Willard Bentley Warren and Fern Ruth (Spelts) Warren, the second of three children. He died of natural causes at his home in Creighton, Nebraska, on October 10, 2020, shortly after celebrating his 97th birthday.
When Merritt was very young, the family moved from a farm near Ulysses to Niobrara, Nebraska, where Merritt’s father worked in a family lumber yard. It was there Merritt first listened to Chicago Cubs baseball games on the radio with his grandmother, Carrie (Chidester) Spelts, becoming a lifelong Cub fan.
When Merritt reached school age, the family moved to Atkinson, Nebraska, where his father worked in the lumber yard, and where his mother later operated the Nite & Day Cafe. Merritt was an excellent student and graduated as valedictorian of his class. He played end on the undefeated Atkinson High School Hay Balers’ football team of 1940 that outscored opponents 246 to 14, and was captain of the basketball team. His friends knew him as “Spike.” He earned the rank of Eagle Scout, and also played trombone in the school band and sang in the choir.
Merritt enrolled at Hastings College in 1941 where he became a starter on the Hastings College basketball team as a sophomore after being recruited by the coach off an intramural team. He met Geraldine “Gerry” Gillespie of Dalton, Nebraska, while working in the dining hall at Hastings.
He entered the Navy’s Midshipman program after his sophomore year and was sent to Doane College, where he again played on the basketball team. The Midshipman’s program sent him to Northwestern University and later to Cornell University before he was commissioned as an Ensign and assigned to an LST, serving in the Mediterranean Sea during WWII. He was honorably discharged as a Lieutenant after the war ended.
He married Gerry Gillespie on November 4, 1945, and enrolled in law school at the University of Colorado in 1946. Gerry supported them by teaching elementary school in Boulder. Merritt became a member of the Law Review, and was admitted to the Order of the Coif, graduating at the top of his class in January of 1949.
Merritt opened a law office in Creighton, Nebraska, in 1949, where he was soon appointed City Attorney. He was appointed to serve as Knox County Attorney and was later elected to the position, serving for several years. He practiced law in Creighton from 1949 to 1969, when he was appointed District Judge by Governor Norbert Tiemann.
Merritt served on the bench for 22 years, retiring in 1991, then spending several years as a senior judge, including assignments to the Court of Appeals and Nebraska Supreme Court from time to time. He consistently received the highest ratings from attorneys and citizens in judicial retention evaluations.
Merritt was very active in the Creighton community, serving on the school board, the hospital board, and the Creighton Historical Center board. He was instrumental in bringing a swimming pool to Creighton, and in spearheading school consolidation as well as the construction of a new junior-senior high school. He was a member of the Creighton Volunteer Fire Department for many years, and was an active member of the United Church of Christ, where he taught Sunday School, sang in the choir, and served as moderator for the parish council until the UCC churches of Creighton and Center merged with the United Methodist Church to become Faith United. His civic involvement also extended to serving on the Ashfall board of directors, reclaiming the Rosewood Cemetery, helping to pass Nebraska’s helmet law, and working with Santee Sioux tribal leaders to improve the Knox County reservation. He was a member of the Masonic Lodge, the VFW and the American Legion.
Merritt and Gerry had five children, four of whom survive him: Bruce “Biff” Warren (Susan) of Niwot, Colorado, Merritt Gregg Warren (Pam) of Brookings, South Dakota, Jean Henes (Eugene) of Creighton, and Sue Dlouhy (Allen) of Deshler, Nebraska. Merritt was preceded in death by son Scott Cleveland Warren, who was stillborn in 1968. He is also survived by 14 grandchildren: Randi Willemsen, Michael Warren, Katie Warren, Scott Bossman, Nathan Warren, Rachel Chamley, Abby Henes, John Henes, Emily Green, Ryne Dlouhy, Luke Dlouhy, Dana Zurst, Kyle Dlouhy, and Leah Dlouhy; 16 great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild, as well as numerous nieces, nephews and cousins. Merritt’s parents, his sister, Georgia Warren Spelts, and his brother, Henry Warren, predeceased him.
Gerry predeceased Merritt on May 17, 2005. On December 28, 2013, Merritt married long-time friend Paula Owens Warren, and they enjoyed spending time together and with family in his later years. He is also survived by his wife Paula, and her children, Laurie Owens of Creighton, and Jeff Owens of Papillion, Nebraska.
Merritt was an avid golfer, stamp collector, Husker fan, and Cub fan, and enjoyed following his children’s and grandchildren’s sporting events and activities.