Merna Burling, 94, of Charles City, passed away Sunday, August 7, 2016 at the Floyd County Medical Center in Charles City.
A funeral service for Merna Burling will be held 11:00 a.m. Wednesday, August 10, 2016 at First Congregational Church in Charles City with Pastor Forrest Cornelius officiating. Burial will be at 3:00 p.m. at Postville Cemetery in Postville, Iowa.
Visitation will be from 9:30 a.m. until the start of the service at the church on Wednesday.
Merna Louise Aitchison was born June 15, 1922 to Charles Fletcher and Myrtle Irene (Gosden) Aitchison at their home in Monticello, (Jones County) Iowa. She felt called to become a member of the Presbyterian Church in Cascade, Iowa at the age of eleven. In 1940 she graduated from Manchester, Iowa High School as the valedictorian of her class. It was on June 14, 1943 that she was awarded the degree of Bachelor of Science, Magna Cum Laude, in Commerce as the salutatorian of her college class at the University of Dubuque, Dubuque, Iowa.
The fall of 1943 found Merna moving to Postville, Iowa where she began her first of three years as the teacher of commercial subjects in Postville High School. She transferred her church membership from First Presbyterian Church in Manchester to Community Presbyterian Church in Postville. There she served as church organist for over twenty years, was ordained as a Ruling Elder and filled other leadership roles within the church. Merna was initiated as a member of Chapter FT of the P.E.O. Sisterhood in 1945.
After the end of World War II, she met a soldier who returned to his home town of Postville to open his law practice in the firm of Burling & Palas, Attorneys. On August 22, 1946 Merna and Robert Hale Burling were united in marriage at Community Presbyterian Church in Postville. This union was blessed with three sons: William Alan, James Craig and Richard Frederick. For the next thirty-four years Merna was a part-time legal assistant in her husband’s law office. Due to ill health, Robert felt it necessary to close his law practice in July of 1980.
Having built a new home in Charles City, Iowa where their son Richard was already living, Merna and Robert moved there to spend their retirement years. For a few years they traveled to various warmer areas for the winter months and returned to Charles City each spring, where Richard was making his home in Comprehensive Systems, Inc. Bob became active on the Board of Directors of Comprehensive Systems and was a vital force in helping meet the requirements to change the level of care there to provide ICF (Intermediate Care Facility) units for the consumers. In appreciation for his efforts, the first new group home built in 1986 was named Burling House. Richard was one of the original twelve consumers to move into that home at 910 First Avenue on August 6, 1986. Bob had been able to attend the ground-breaking ceremony in the spring of that year. However, death on June 25, 1986 released him from his earthly suffering; so he never saw the interior of the completed building.
Merna and Bob had both transferred their church membership from Postville Community Presbyterian Church to Charles City First Congregational Church UCC when they first moved to Charles City as there was no Presbyterian Church in Charles City. Merna served as substitute organist and Chancel Choir accompanist until 2004 when shoulder injuries made her resignation necessary. She played with the Chancel Chimes Bell Choir, served a term as Chairman of Prudential Board, another as Moderator of the Congregation; and two terms as Treasurer of Women’s Fellowship. She also served several terms on the Board of Trustees.
After Bob’s resignation from Comprehensive Systems, Inc. Board of Directors, Merna was appointed to complete his term. She was then elected to serve two more three-year terms and was President of the Board for three years. Next she was elected to the Comp Systems Foundation Board of Directors and served a term as President of that board.
In 1987 Merna was invited to join the Charles City Improvement Association, a 105-year old non-profit organization of women who own and maintain twelve parks in Charles City for the public use of the residents and visitors. She has held several offices, including President, in that group. After making Charles City her home, Merna changed her membership to Chapter JQ of P.E.O Sisterhood in Charles City. She was a member of the sisterhood for 71 years, and during that time has held most of the offices, including President.
Merna’s interests include her family, the church, music, flower gardening and traveling. She feels privileged to have visited Canada, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Hawaii, the Far East, South America, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Alaska, the Canary Islands and most of the U.S.A. mainland states.
Living family members include her three sons: William Burling of Kenosha, Wisconsin, James (Peggy) Burling of Concord, Massachusetts and Richard Burling who resides at Burling House of Comp Systems in Charles City; four grandchildren: Hannah, Amy, Zachary and Nicholas; along with other family members and special friends.
In lieu of flowers the family suggests memorial contributions be made to Comprehensive Systems, Inc. in Charles City.
Hauser Funeral Home, (641) 228-2323, in Charles City, is in charge of local arrangements. Online condolences may be left for the family at www.hauserfh.com.