Merlin Gene Cheney
May 18, 1939 ~ April 26, 2022
Merlin Gene Cheney passed away on April 26, 2022 at his new home in Ogden, Utah, just three weeks shy of his 83rd birthday. He was born in Archer, Idaho to Theron Allen Cheney and Dorothy Frances Mayes on May 18, 1939.
The third of nine children, he grew up on a farm, a life of hard work, animals, and struggling to make ends meet. He learned about planting and harvest, shouldering responsibilities, completing tasks. He loved flowers and gardens and growing things, and his home was surrounded by trees of every kind, especially those bearing fruit.
Who would have thought this small boy from a small town in Idaho would go so far?
Education was always important to him. At 17 he was off to college, earning a BA in English, which was quickly followed by an MA and a Ph.D. At twenty, he found Donna Ragon, married her in August 1959, and they began a family.
He found a position at Weber State when it was a small state college. As the institution grew, he filled it with programs he designed and innovative instruction that changed the lives of students and resonated with colleagues. He taught Victorian and Medieval Literature, Science Fiction, Old English, Linguistics, Senior projects, etc. for more than 50 years. In his last years of service at WSU, Merlin fought for and developed the Master’s program in English, finally retiring in 2012.
He traveled the world, journeying through six of the seven continents, but his heart belonged in England. He took loads of students with him to that isle. (He and his second wife took an extensive honeymoon there.) He could never sit still. He designed and built the innovative home he lived in. That home he filled with books, poetry, reading, laughter, and stories. He fed everyone who came through the ever-open door and gave shelter to those who needed sanctuary. There he loved, counseled, and nurtured without judgment. He believed in kindness paired with accountability.
Merlin held many callings in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and served in Primary, Scouting, Youth programs and bishoprics. The one he held most dear was as a Branch President at the Weber County Jail for eight years, holding services on Sundays and ministering to individuals during the week. [In his time at the jail, he developed teaching, outreach, and social programs still in wide-spread use today].
He did have a temper though that showed up a few times. He could be impatient, sharp-tongued, distractable, and he often got lost in his own thoughts; in other words, he was human. Nevertheless, he was a good husband, good father, attentive teacher, and caring Branch President. He taught his family and colleagues to dream big and that the greatest gift of all is to take care of others.
Merlin is survived by his second wife, Janet Bernice Cheney, and her children, Alex (Sonya), Chris (Melanie) and Eric Johnson (Kirsty). His five children include Michael, David, Laurel, Benjamin, Adam and their spouses. There are 11 grandchildren and 1 great grandchild. In addition, there are many unofficial children who are dear, Michael Rohde, Margaret Hawks, Sam Payne, Megan Condie and many, many others.
Dr. Cheney’s doctoral thesis was on Thomas Hardy. He said, “Hardy was a realist, he was a great humanist, and he cared about people. He had a tragic vision, but he couldn’t stop caring—he couldn’t lose hope.” Those words also apply to Dr. Cheney – he always cared about people from every walk of life. It didn’t matter their circumstances; if someone wanted to change their life for the better, Merlin Cheney helped them do it.
Merlin Gene Cheney is remembered with love and gratitude by his many thousands of students, as well as the great number of folks he has helped through the years without recognition or fanfare. Merlin will be greatly missed on earth, but now can go back to heaven as an influence for good and serve in his Father in Heaven’s world.
A Celebration of Life will be held Saturday, May 14, 2022 at 11 a.m. at the Waterfall Canyon Ward Building, 3254 Polk Avenue, Ogden, UT 84403. An open house will be held on Saturday from 10 to 11 a.m. at the church. Cremation entrusted to Lindquist’s Ogden Mortuary.
If desired a tribute donation can be made to Alzheimer's.org