Vincent “Ray” Merritt of Lansing,
Returned to his Creator on May 21, 2020 at the age of 83, after a 3-year battle with cancer and kidney disease. Ray, as he was known, was born in Edmore, Michigan to Hollis and Irene (Morton) Merritt on January 16, 1937. The family included older sister, Kay, younger sister, Carol, and the youngest sibling, brother Drew. A graduate of Farwell High School in 1955, he was a star athlete – captain of the basketball team and played football and baseball. The family owned a series of taverns and restaurants, and Ray learned the restaurant business at an early age waiting tables and helping with the cleaning. As a teenager, he started his own lawncare business during the summer months. His work ethic and attention to quality and detail soon earned him a large customer base. Following graduation from high school, Ray entered the United States army. He had a long desire to become a paratrooper, but shortly before leaving for an assignment in Germany, he suffered the loss of his vision in his left eye. He spent several weeks in Walter Reed Hospital. This resulted in a medical discharge from the military in 1957. In the summer of 1958, he renewed a friendship with Janet Wilson which grew, and they were married in September 1959. To support his growing family, Ray worked at various jobs including manufacturing, sales, and painting. After attending a revival meeting with Janet in 1972, he was baptized into Christ, a decision which changed his life. In 1984 he felt a strong calling to enter the ministry and began attending classes at Great Lakes Christian College, along with his son, who was a senior at the college, and his daughter. While still attending classes, he was asked to begin preaching at a small church near South Bend, IN., where he and Janet remained after receiving his Advanced Preacher Training degree. During his preaching career, he and Janet also served at churches throughout Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio. He was asked to preach at revivals throughout the country and built an educational program to guide men interested in evangelizing. Several program participants chose to become preachers. In November 2005, Janet succumbed to Cancer. Not long after, he retired from preaching, however, four years later he was asked to serve at a Lansing church as an associate to help the growth of the church and spread the gospel to the urban population. He was also asked to return to the small church near South Bend where he and Janet served at the beginning of his preaching career. During this time, he met Cathy (Cronkright) Robinson, and the two were married in July 2010. Following some health issues, he eventually retired for a second time.
Retirement did not stop his enthusiasm or passion for spreading God’s word. Ray continued to work with and encourage struggling churches and to contact and encourage young preachers. He traveled throughout Michigan gathering church leaders together to learn from each other, share successes, and work out solutions to issues preventing church growth. In 2016, Ray invited men from churches in the greater Lansing and surrounding areas to join him in forming the Great Lakes Christian Men’s Fellowship. The mission is to share the gospel, support local mission endeavors, and promote fellowship among men of like precious Christian faith. This organization has grown significantly and continues to meet each month.
Ray is preceded in death by his parents, Irene and Hollis Merritt, and sisters Carol Perry and Kay Shilling. He is survived by his wife, Cathy; brother, Drew (Barbara) Merritt of Port Huron, MI; sons, Randy Merritt, of San Diego, CA, Barry (Janet Wellman Tarnosky), of Howell, MI; daughter, Tracy (Michael) Kjergaard of Fort Wayne, IN.; 6 grandchildren; 3 great grandchildren; and a host of extended family including his mother-in-law, Virgie Wilson of Clare, MI.
A memorial service will be held at a later date and location to be determined. Donations in Ray’s name can be made in lieu of flowers to White Fields World Ministries or the food pantry at All Nations Christian Church in Lansing. Arrangements were entrusted to the Mills Funeral Home in Eaton Rapids. Please visit our website to leave online condolences, www.millsfuneral.com.
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