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Merlin Morasch ’48

March 21, 2018, in Portland.

Except for his time in the army, Portland was the only home Mel knew. He graduated from Benson Polytechnic High School and went to work at Boeing, where he proudly worked on the B-17 bomber assembly line. Mel was drafted in 1943 and placed in the Army Specialized Training Program, a higher-education program at Fordham University instituted to provision the army with junior officers. After only nine months, the army realized it didn’t need more officers; it needed soldiers. Thus began Mel’s time with the U.S. Army’s 104th Infantry Division—better known as the Timberwolves. From the 104th’s training camp in Camp Carson, Colorado, he landed in Cherbourg, France. Serving as a medic with the 329th Medical Battalion, Mel was one of the first medics sent into the Nordhausen concentration camp to search for survivors. He was honorably discharged from the army in 1945 and returned to Portland, where he graduated from Reed on the GI Bill in 1948. He wrote his thesis, “Reproducibility of Decay Curves of Infra-red Phosphors,” with Prof. Raymond Ellickson [physics 1946–48].

After graduation from Reed, Mel was a physicist for the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA). While he enjoyed his time with the BPA, he had a burning desire to have his own business. In 1956, he founded Blue Ribbon Food Service, a home delivery service of frozen food to customers throughout Oregon and Washington. Today, the family business—now Morasch Meats—employs more than 150 people at its two processing facilities in Portland and Wood Village. Remarkably, even into his 94th year, Mel still went into his office six days a week.

Throughout his life, Mel was an avid reader, often holding a book in one hand and his yellow magic marker or pen in the other. He would make numerous notations, highlighting passages that supported his position or that demonstrated that the author was “full of malarkey.” A favorite book was the Bible, and Mel was proud to say he had read it 115 times in his lifetime.

He is survived by his six children, Steven, Michael, Douglas, Alan, Melissa, and Melody, and his sister, Ruth Williams. He was predeceased by Sallie, his wife of 60 years.

Appeared in Reed magazine: September 2018

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