Merl Arp: In Memoriam, 1931-2016

Merl Arp, September 3rd, 1931 – March 23rd, 2016

Newsletter Editor: American/Schleswig-Holstein Heritage Society (ASHHS)

In memoriam - What a great man!

I first met Merl Arp nearly thirty years ago in the City of Bad Segeberg, most northern German State of Schleswig-Holstein. At least, that's the first time I met Merl in person. Because my friend Holger Anderson from Kiel (a Forty-Eighter expert and author of Idstedt und danach) had spoken so often about his friend Merl Arp, I felt as if I knew Merl before I'd even met him.

During that first meeting, everything that Holger had told me about Merl was verified, and I took an immediate liking to the charming American diplomat. I peppered him with an endless stream of questions and ideas all relating to the common theme of what we could do together to foster a special friendship between my home state of Schleswig-Holstein and the United States. Merl not only patiently listened to all my ideas and questions, but welcomed them. It was obvious that he was open to any suggestions that might strengthen the bonds between his ancestral homeland (some of his ancestors hailed from the Probstei region near Schleswig-Holstein's state capital of Kiel) and the United States.

Emboldened by his interest, I informed Merl of my plans for a group tour of north Germans "on the tracks of the Schleswig-Holstein emigrants in the United States," a tour that would take place a few months later, 1988. I asked Merl whether he would be able to lend support for the tour. After informing me that he would be retiring near Washington, D.C. in a few weeks, Merl surprised me by turning the tables and asking me a question: "Yogi, might I volunteer to assist with the sightseeing activities of your group in Washington?"

What a great man!

Merl not only accompanied our group of north Germans in Washington, but also accepted our invitation to join the group at the end of our tour in Davenport, which as luck would have it, was also Merl's hometown. On short notice, he booked a flight and did indeed meet us in Davenport. All of the group members were enchanted by Merl's dynamic and charismatic personality. My hard-to-please mother confided to me that Merl was the "best looking American I have ever and will ever meet!"

While attending a party in Scott County Park, Merl and I continued our discussion — first begun in Bad Segeberg in 1988 — of our dream of founding the organization that became known as ASHHS, the American/Schleswig-Holstein Heritage Society. Our dream became a reality in early January of 1989, and before long, Merl volunteered to be the editor of the society's newsletter. As longtime members will attest to, the newsletter thrived under Merl's leadership, and the articles penned by him were always scholarly, well researched, informative, and interesting. What most members might not know is all the time, effort, and dedication that were required to do the job that Merl had graciously volunteered to do.

What a great man!

Five years after the founding of ASHHS, Merl and my father led a group of German visitors to our very first Forty-Eighter Conference, Claussen Centennial Celebration – The Legacy of 1848: Trailblazers of Democracy (transplanted ideas and values in America’s past and present). Once again, Merl charmed the Germans with his charisma and sense of humor.

Many times my wife and I were the recipients of Merl's hospitality when we stayed in his home on visits to the United States. Our visits to that house will always be very dear to me, as it was at Merl's house that I proposed to my wife!

In addition to all that he did for ASHHS, Merl was a very successful and active participant in DANK (Deutsch-Amerikanischer Nationalkongress) and local German-American organizations in and around Washington, D.C. He also served as the newsletter editor of several other German-American organizations.

When I began thinking about who the guest of honor should be at the Henry C. Finnern / Forty-Eighter conference I had been sponsoring in Denison, Iowa, in the late summer of 2009, the obvious choice was my friend Merl Arp.

What a great man!

Yogi Reppmann, Flensburg, Schleswig-Holstein / Northfield, MN www.moin-moin.us

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