Long-time community leader Merrill Clouse passed away Thursday at the age of 96, just over a year after his wife Norma died.
The Clouses were linchpins in many community institutions that continue to this day, from the Hope Volunteer Fire Department, to Hope Heritage Days to the Flat Rock-Hawcreek Schools.
Merrill and Norma Clouse graduated from Hope High School Class of 1939. They owned and operated Clouse's Regal Store and Clouse's IGA/Frozen Food Center for many years.
Merrill was a veteran of World War II, serving from 1942 to 1946. With Tom Hoover and Robert F. Herron, he envisioned and oversaw construction of the Veterans Memorial in the Moravian Cemetery.
Merrill was instrumental in forming the Hope Volunteer Fire Department and served as fire chief for 26 years. He received awards including the governor's meritorious service award.
Merill was a member of the Hope American Legion, the Masonic Lodge, Lion's Club, Kiwanis and the Bartholomew County Historical Society. He was founding president of Flat Rock-Hawcreek School Corp. in 1957.
The Clouses helped organize the first Hope Heritage Days in 1967 and served as grand marshals in 1987. Merrill was the founding president of the celebration.
The Clouses were instrumental in establishing the Yellow Trail Museum in 1975, offering free building space and eventually selling the building for a nominal fee.
Merrill received the Sagamore of the Wabash award from Gov. Otis Bowen in 1980 and Merrill and Norma received the award from Gov. Robert Orr in 1987.
The Clouses were Bronze Members of the Heritage Fund and Hawcreek-Flat Rock Area Endowment Fund.
The Clouses were married for 74 years, with Norma passing away in April of 2016.