Mervin E. Mullins, Jr., 68, son of Mervin E. Mullins, Sr., and Sarah (Sally) Catherine Watson Mullins (both deceased), resting in his wife Margie’s arms, amidst praise of God and much love, slipped away to worship face to Face at the Father’s Throne on 29 February. This ended a 26 month battle with an aggressive brain tumor, diagnosed 2 January 2010 as already in its final stage. Merv was given two to four months to live, even with surgery, chemo, and radiation. His return to work and driving amazed his earthly physicians. Continued tumor assaults led to more dire medical predictions, including one in June 2011 that he would die in a couple days. These were thwarted by his faith in Christ, plus the prayers of much vigilant care and died, Merv’s strong love with his wife, and his desire to fulfill Christ’s calling here.
Born in Alexandria, Virginia, Mervin’s army family rotated often, including to Okinawa. They came to Alaska in 1960, where his father headed the atomic power plant. Merv attended Fort Greely High School his junior and senior years. He loved reading, hunting, fishing, gunshell loading, making puns, developing and printing his own color photographs of school events, friends, family, and nature. He received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks and was an ROTC officer.
As a jest, three of his UAF friends and he legally formed an Alaska university, and awarded themselves doctoral degree diplomas. Quickly, Alaska law was changed to require college curriculum approval and accreditation. Merv never touted his legal doctorate pigskin, but really enjoyed sharing how he’d received it.
Merv’s future wife, Margret (Margie) A. Mullins, had grown up in Delta, having driven up the primitive Alaska Highway in 1952, in a wood-sided station wagon pulling a red, open-topped utility trailer, with seven siblings, parents, and maternal grandmother. Merv knew her in passing. Later, he worked as photographer, writer, layout designer, and as equipment fixer in the UAF student yearbook office next door to where Margie worked and trained the college newspaper student workers. Merv was attracted to her quickness to learn and problem solving endurance and ingenuity. When the press or punched tape typesetters broke down as deadline neared, Merv cheerfully would come at any hour and fix the problem.
As the pipeline crunched housing, families were sleeping in cars and Alaskan airports. Efficiencies cost up to $1800 a month, requiring first and last months’ rents, plus deposit. Seeing Margie improvise a wooden, six-by-eight foot homemade cab-over camper shell into a tiny home with hand-toted but running water and toilet, he fell in love with her creativity, endurance, and hardy “you do what you must do” heart. He proposed to her as he was leaving to join the Army. But Margie was too immature to recognize his mental brilliance, integrity, and manifold strengths, so they wrote, as friends.
As an U.S. Army Lieutenant in the Vietnam war, Merv received the Bronze Star formeritorious achievement in connection with military ope3rations against a hostile force.”
In 1969, he returned to Alaska, working at Elmendorf AFB’s Corps of Engineers as contract reviewer, security manager, disaster relief planner, and computer guru. Still extremely quiet and shy, he waited for Margie. “He never sought from me what wasn’t his as a husband, and he was content just to be near, helping. One Christmas Eve, when visiting our Delta families, amidst twinkling tree lights, with him quietly, contentedly standing by my side, I thought, “If I don’t want him, what DO I want?” I ticked off my list: intelligent, strong, moral, faithful, one who loved his job, good humored, broad shouldered, gentle, and who deeply loved me, letting me massively love, honor, and serve him back. Check, check, check : In an instant, I fell deeply in love with him – then noticed his breathtakingly gentle brown eyes! I wanted to marry him that day. But mom held out for time to send out invitations, etc.”
Merv married Margie, a budding Alaskan artist, art instructor, and Alaskan storybook author and illustrator, on 6 February 1971, in Fort Greely’s chapel. Margie shared, “We have often reminisced how we both had hopes for a sweet marriage. But our love is way beyond either of our greatest expectations. God knew both our needs. And our foster kids over the years have blessed us too.”
Merv heartily enjoyed his work and co-workers at the Corp, including noon volleyball games – until a truck him while bicycling and took out his left leg, needing eight pins to hold it together. For 25 years, he attended the Wednesday noon Bible Study which Claude Vining, a Corps co-worker, led until Claude retired.
During his 42 years of government service, Merv received many federal service awards, such as for his disaster recovery work after Guam’s 2002 super typhoon Pongsona. On 26 August 2011, COL. Reinhard W. Koenig awarded Mr. Mullins “The Commander’s Award For Civilian Service,” for setting and re-setting precedence with his development of the Catastrophic Disaster Response Plan,” his (Merv’s) work planning and coordinating the Cold Weather Response Workshop, and his involvement in the Flood Control Coastal Emergency Program” : bringing “organizations together – state, local, federal, DoD and USACE – to achieve a common goal.” The award cited Merv’s professional competence and his long and dedicated service.” His disaster plans are the model other states often use to implement their own. (Corp Hall of Famer, Allen Churchill, in citing Merv for a different past award, commented that Merv’s disaster expertise is relied on nationally and internationally : if you want disaster management advice, ask Merv.”)
On that same August day, his 68th birthday, Merv was also awarded the Army Engineer Association’s Bronze Order of the Fleury Medal “for inspirational leadership to the US Army Corps of Engineers.” This award “by engineers, for engineers” recognized Merv’s superior service to the Engineer Regiment it supports the Army to assure mobility, enhance protection, enable expeditionary logistics, and build capacity in order to provide commanders with the freedom of action required for full spectrum operations in an era of persistent conflict:”
On 5 January 2011, Mervin was inducted into Alaska District Engineers’ Hall of Fame – its 19th member. Members’ portraits and accomplishments are displayed in the Corp’s main hallway, as historical inspiration. COL. Koenig wrote of Merv, “I quickly came to know him : an incredible engineer with boundless intellect, an unwavering sense of duty and integrity, and a sense of humor that made it fun to be around him.”
Mervin is survived by Margie, his tenderly beloved bride of 41 years. Early on, they decided that “the honeymoon would never be over,” and lived that out daily.
After Sally (Merv’s mom) passed away, also from cancer, Gene remarried and adopted his second wife, Betty’s, three children, Tom, Julie, and Vickie. Betty, the three children, and their families live stateside.
Merv’s funeral will be at 11:30 am, on Friday, 9 March, 2012, at Anchorage Christian Center, located at Minnesota and 100th Avenue. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to Samaritan’s Purse Disaster Relief Fund, or Rochester, Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic Cancer Research Center.