Merlin Jon Van Zee, 45, of Danville, passed away Thursday, March 2, 2023, in Pella after he lost his battle with depression and mental illness.
Born Oct. 3, 1977, in Pella, he was the son of Arvan and Betty Fopma Van Zee. On Dec. 12, 2007, he married Magon Burr in St. Thomas, V.I.
Merlin graduated from Pella Christian High School in 1996. After high school, he attended Iowa State University where he completed his undergraduate studies in 3 years and was early accepted to the school of veterinary medicine. He graduated in 2003 with his DVM (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine) with distinction. The Dean of his program said he'd never seen a brighter student.
Following graduation, Merlin began working for Summer Street Animal Clinic as a veterinarian and co-owner. He strived to make the clinic feel like a home and thought of his coworkers as family. He attended many seminars and continuing education, allowing him to be self-taught in more advanced orthopedic procedures. Over the 20 years he spent as co-owner, he was able to use his expertise to grow the clinic into an invaluable asset to the community.
Merlin was a member of Crossroads Community Church, where he and his wife were youth group leaders for over 10 years. He taught biology classes for Great River Christian School and volunteered with Hetta Gilbert by helping move and deliver furniture to those in need. Merlin had a unique chuckle and was known for his "dad jokes". He made everyone feel so special. He genuinely wanted to know how people were and would pray for them and with them. He loved the outdoors, going fishing locally and in Canada, camping with his family, and trap shooting. Merlin could be found tinkering in his shop or fixing something that was broken. These were skills he learned from watching his father over the years. He also enjoyed woodworking and liked the challenge of creating Magon's "ideas." Merlin loved planning trips from start to finish. Whether driving up to visit his parents and sister, spending time with his nieces and nephew, traveling with family, or taking adventurous trips with friends, he loved to plan fun experiences for everyone to enjoy. His love for his children was evident in how he spent as much time as he could snuggling Amos, bringing Meadow along as his personal assistant for after-hours calls, and enjoying Iowa State sporting events with Ty.
As we grieve this unspeakable loss, we find peace in the fact that Merlin was a believer. He strongly believed God's Word is the ultimate authority. Scripture teaches us that all who place their hope and faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ are eternally secure. The only sin that condemns a person to eternal suffering in hell is the rejection of Christ. We take great comfort in knowing that Merlin is with the Lord. Merlin was a child of God, loving husband and father, amazing son, loyal brother, outstanding uncle, and a cherished friend to many.
Survivors include his wife; his parents, Arvan and Betty Van Zee of Pella; three children, Ty Russell, Meadow Van Zee, and Amos Van Zee; sister, Julie (Kevin) DeZwarte of Kellogg; nieces and nephew, Miriam, Hannah, Alton, and Madeline; father-in-law, Rodney (Kay) Burr of Terre Haute, Ill.; brother-in-law, Matthew (Brianne) Burr of La Harpe, Ill. and their sons, Maddox and Jace.
He was preceded in death by his grandparents, Charles and Kathleen (Nikkel) Fopma, Alvin and Minnie (Wassink) Van Zee; and aunt, Margery DeGraaf.
Visitation will be from noon until 7 p.m. with the family present from 4 until 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 8 at Prugh Funeral Service, 3940 Division Street.
The funeral service for Dr. Van Zee will be 10 a.m. Thursday, March 9 at Prugh Funeral Service, 3940 Division Street with the Rev. Dr. Jason Unzicker officiating.
Memorials have been established for Crossroads Community Church and for the Merlin Van Zee memorial fund to be used to bring awareness of mental health services in our community.