In Memory of

Jo Ann Merrill

August 2, 1954 - November 23, 2017
From: Greenville, IA
Jo Ann Merrill

Jo Ann Merrill

Born: August 2, 1954
Died: November 23, 2017
Age: 63

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In lieu of flowers, memorials will be given to the Spencer Brain Tumor Walk by the family.

JoAnn (Rusk) Merrill, the daughter of Clayton James Rusk and Lucille Harriet (Adams) Rusk was born on August 2, 1954, in Spencer, Iowa.  Her childhood years were spent on the family farm near Dickens.  She was a member of 4-H and had a passion for singing.  Jo was a member of the Dickens United Methodist Church where she participated in choir and played the organ.  Jo graduated from South Clay Community School in Gillett Grove, Iowa, and furthered her education at Northwestern College in Orange City. 


     Jo married Bruce Irving Merrill on August 11, 1974, at Grace United Methodist Church in Spencer.  Following their marriage, they lived in a pink trailer home in Primghar, which was later moved to an acreage near Greenville, Iowa.  In 1978 Bruce and Jo moved into their newly built lifelong home.  Over the years Jo and Bruce spent many joyful hours turning a farm field into a beautiful acreage.  Jo was an elementary teacher in the Spencer Community School District for her entire 31-year career.  She touched the lives of countless students and families, as well as her fellow teachers and co-workers.  Jo enjoyed the outdoors, and spent time camping, canoeing, and gardening.  She liked decorating her home, feeding birds, and she LOVED cats! 


     After Jo lost her husband, Bruce, in 2009 to brain cancer, she became involved with Brains Together For A Cure in Rochester, Minnesota.  Jo’s passion for this cause led her to start the Spencer Brain Tumor Walk which locally raised thousands of dollars for brain tumor research.


     She passed away at her home on Thursday, November 23, 2017, after a courageous battle with brain cancer.  She was preceded in death by her parents; her husband Bruce; and her in-laws Irving and Darlene Merrill.


     She is survived by two brothers and their wives:  Bob and Nira Rusk of Dickens and Jim and Jan Rusk of Greenville, Iowa; nieces and nephews, great nieces and nephews, other relatives, and many friends.  

A Service of Remembrance will be held 11:00 A.M., Tuesday, November 28, 2017 at the Bethany Lutheran Church in Spencer.

A lunch and time of fellowship will be held immediately after the Service of Remembrance at the church.
Pastor Jen Henry
Visitation will be held one hour prior to the services at the church.


“The Lord’s Prayer”

“Precious Lord, Take My Hand”

Lisa Salton



“I Was There to Hear Your Borning Cry”

“This Little Light of Mine

Stephan Baker

Burial will be held privately at a later date.


Sunday, July 14, 2019 at 1:21 PM
“I was looking for my brother's obit today and I came across Mrs Merrill's. I'm deeply saddened. Just a few weeks ago I was thinking I needed to look her up and let her know how much impact she had on me as my 6th grade teacher at Johnson Elementary. She was a great teacher and is missed.”
- Paul Dalen
Monday, December 11, 2017 at 5:33 PM
“Sorry to hear of Jo's passing. She was such a kind woman. She taught both of my boys at Fairview and they both say she was their favorite teacher. I also got to know her when I worked at St Lukes where her father in law was and she would visit faithfully even though he didn't know it for the most part. She would also bring treats for all the staff when she would visit. She was an angel on earth and now she has earned her wings.”
- Tammy Gillis
Monday, December 4, 2017 at 8:00 AM
“Jo Ann was a Big Part of the Fairview Elementary Great teaching staff. She was a terrific teacher and was a mentor to so many not only in her teaching but in the way she lived. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends. Love, Denny and Kaye Price ”
- Dennis and Kaye Price
Friday, December 1, 2017 at 8:04 AM
“Bob, Jim, and families. Sorry to hear of Jo's passing. Our thoughts and prayers are with you, and May God be with you.”
- Steve and Barb Meyer
Tuesday, November 28, 2017 at 5:27 PM
“So sorry to hear about Jo Anne. Thoughts and prayers with all of you.”
- Nita Richards
Tuesday, November 28, 2017 at 4:24 PM
“Our deepest sympathy to all who loved & were touched by Jo Ann's life.
Will find a way to make a donation to Spencer Brain Tumor Walk in her name instead of flowers.
With Love & Hugs remembering Jo Ann, Jerry & Jeanette ”
- Jerry & Jeanette Mills
Monday, November 27, 2017 at 8:30 PM
“May love and light guide you though this sad time. Mrs. Merrill was Kat's favorite teacher, she always stopped anytime she saw us, to inquire how Kat was doing, long after she had graduated. She was such a wonderful person. We are so sorry for your loss! ”
- Traci Verdoorn
Monday, November 27, 2017 at 5:30 PM
“Most sincere thoughts and prayers to you and your families in the loss of Jo Ann Merrill. We pray that God will wrap you in His arms of love and support you as you adjust to this loss and journey through the next seasons of your lives. ”
- Larry and Marlene Knudsen
Monday, November 27, 2017 at 5:10 PM
“To family of Jo Ann Merrill. She was a very special teacher to my children and me. She always had a smile on her face; She was the kind of teacher you knew loved her job and loved the difference she made in each child’s life. ”
- Donna Israels
Monday, November 27, 2017 at 4:56 PM
“Bob, Jim and families. So sorry for the loss of your sister. Losing a sibling strikes way too close for each of us. Please know that you are all in my thoughts as you grieve, each in his own way. Valorie Walstrom Schuelke”
- valorie walstrom schuelke
Monday, November 27, 2017 at 4:56 PM
“Jim and Jan and Nira and Bob and families, Please accept my sincere sympathies on your loss. Thinking of you. ”
- Susan Wedel
Monday, November 27, 2017 at 4:56 PM
“Our thoughts and prayers are with your families ”
- Denny and Kerry King
Monday, November 27, 2017 at 4:56 PM
“Nira and Bob - sincere sympathies to you as your mourn Jo's loss. She fought a long, brave battle. Now she's home where she needs to be. Blessings to you. ”
- Pastor Donna Gray
Monday, November 27, 2017 at 4:56 PM
“To Jo Ann's family: Jo Ann and I attended Northwestern College together. One year ahead of me in college, she was a role model for me. She was always kind and easy going with a certain spark that grabbed your attention. We both survived a certain teaching professor! How ironic that she had a teaching job in Spencer, and I got a job in Ruthven a year later. Unfortunately both our busy schedules didn't allow us to see each other often. Jo Ann was such a joy--a certain angel-like glow seemed to radiate from her. I am sure she touched many students' hearts. Our paths connected when her husband passed. I was working the Information Desk at the Spencer Hospital. We would chat each time she entered or left the building. Jo Ann showed such strength of character and such an uncommon faith. She again became a role model for me. Faced with tragedy, she marched steadily forward with courage and strength through her faith in God and her love of her husband. Together they were one tough team to beat.
I know you will miss her. She was a very special lady who inspired me with her grace and strength when I went through tough times. We never surrender. We keep moving onward and upward. I smiled to see that "This Lttle Light of Mine" was one of your music selections. Jo Ann was a lot more than a "little light" in this dark world. She was more like a bonfire or a starburst. My prayers and love go out to you for your loss of such a remarkable sister and friend. God bless!”
- Sheryl Rose
Monday, November 27, 2017 at 4:56 PM
“We are so very sorry to learn that Jo lost her fight to her brain cancer. We were involved in supporting the BTFC events each fall, having lost too many friends to this horrible disease. Our daughters, Amy and Alyssa, had Mrs Merrill as their teacher at Fairview and loved her. All of the children that she taught were part of the legacy that she left. She had such a positive, loving, nurturing impact on them that encouraged them to grow and flourish. May you draw comfort knowing that her loss is being felt by the extended families that she touched during her teaching career. May you be aware of God's enduring live and mercy as you go through this time of grief. Tom and Mary Galik, Alyssa Levisay, Amy Perry”
- Tom and Mary Galik
Monday, November 27, 2017 at 4:56 PM
“So Sorry, Prayers to the family. May God be with you.”
- Steve & Jeanine Hall
Monday, November 27, 2017 at 4:56 PM
“So sorry to hear of Jo's passing. She was a great teacher. A wonderful advocate for brain cancer research. A very sweet person.
- Joanne Schar
Sunday, November 26, 2017 at 2:30 PM
“Jim and Bob and family
We are so sorry to hear about Jo! She fought hard and long! Our daughter and family were so happy when she started the Brain Tumor Walk in Spencer, since Bridget had a brain tumor when she was 11. Lucky it was NOT cancerous.!!!!! She has gone on the walk from the first time. Im glad Jo got to know Bridget since we are related!!!! May God wrap his arms around you all and guide you though this!!!”
- Bryan and Gayle Bailey
Sunday, November 26, 2017 at 8:03 AM
“So sorry to hear of Jo's passing. Always enjoyed the times when she and Bruce would come into Staples to have copies made. We always had a good laugh. She was a kind person who was always willing to help others. I will cherish my cancer bracelets that she made. May you all find comfort in friends and family & the memories made together. RIP ”
- Linda Versluis
Saturday, November 25, 2017 at 7:42 PM
“to the family of Jo Merrill. You were so important to her all her life. Find comfort in knowing you brought her much joy. I met JoAnn Rusk in grade school and knew her all through school. She was friendly and bivacious! Her big bright smile matched her beautiful spirit. I’m sad she died so young but I’m glad to know whe is safely wrapped in the stems of her Creator free from all pain. I’m sorry we won’t be able to join you for services. God’s peace. LaVonne & Gary ”
- LaVonne Salton and Gary Anderson
Saturday, November 25, 2017 at 7:58 AM
“Im so sorry for your loss. I will miss my sunshine very much.”
- Kristen Harleman
Friday, November 24, 2017 at 6:40 PM
“To the family of Jo, I am so sorry for your great loss. Jo was adored by many. Prayers to you all.”
- Kelly Hollesen Behrens
Friday, November 24, 2017 at 6:40 PM
“Bob, Nira, Jim and Jan, So sorry for your loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.”
- Dennis and Cathy Faber
Friday, November 24, 2017 at 6:40 PM
“RIP Mrs. Merrill. You were one of the best teachers our kids had at Fairview Elementary. Thank you for all you did for the school, community and your students’ parents. You were loved by many!”
- Carol &. Patrick Morgan
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