February 24, 1928 — August 14, 2023
Provo — Merlin Henry Forster lived an abundant life and passed away peacefully at age 95 with his beloved companion, Vilda Mae, of 71 years at his side, on August 14, 2023 at Jamestown Assisted Living Center in Provo Utah. He was born in Delta Utah to Henry Forster and Ila Rawlinson Forster, the oldest of 5 children. Merlin was an infant during the Great Depression, and a young man during World War II, but with a loving extended family he had wonderful times swimming the flumes, spotting aircraft with his brother Walt, rabbit and deer hunting with his Dad and learning music beside his Mama. He had a beautiful tenor voice, sang solos, engaged in quartets and had many parts in high school productions. Music continued to be a significant part of his adult life, marriage and family and he appreciated all types of music. He and Vilda performed joyful songs in Spanish and the family loved to learn four part harmonies around the piano played by their oldest daughter Celia and perform together in church programs. Merlin served an LDS mission in the Spanish American Mission for almost 3 years, being assigned to diverse places like El Paso Texas, the Imperial Valley in California, the San Luis Valley in Southern Colorado and Trinidad Colorado. He sported a fine moustache, wore the traditional missionary hat and even met with his future bride Vilda Naegle during those years. After their missions were complete, they met again at a reunion and the rest was history. Since Vilda was raised in Cornish Utah, they were sealed in the Logan LDS Temple on April 25, 1952. He was an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Saints and served in many callings- Seminary Teacher, Bishopric Counselor, High Councilor, Stake music director and often in his favorite role as ward choir director. In his retired years he enjoyed doing Family History indexing in various languages, volunteering at the MTC to help Spanish speaking missionaries and serving in the Provo Temple as an ordinance and veil worker. Merlin was a linguist, speaking fluent Spanish and Portuguese, along with some French and German, and studied Russian in the Army. He was known to pass as a native of the countries he visited with the finesse of regional accents. He earned his Doctorate of Philosophy from the University of Illinois while his devoted Vilda skillfully typed his dissertation on the kitchen table of their home. He was a Spanish and Portuguese Professor at the University of Illinois, University of Texas (Austin) and Brigham Young University as well as the Spanish Department Chairman at both UT (’78-’87)and BYU (’89-’93). His focus of study was Latin American poetry and he found great satisfaction in the life of a professor, writer, researcher, collaborator and mentor. His influence on students, colleagues and library collections runs deep and wide over his many years of work. Because of his study of languages and by earning grants from the National Endowment of Humanities, Merlin and Vilda were able to travel throughout most of South America, as well as England, Spain, Portugal, France, Hungary and Germany doing research for his publications, as well as visiting family and friends. He was always ready to try a new food, visit a new place, and add to his vast knowledge of life. The Forsters lived as a family for two summers in Mexico City in 1968 and 1969 and in Buenos Aires Argentina in 1971 while on a Fulbright scholarship, all adventures never to be forgotten. Merlin retired as a Full Colonel in the United States Army, serving on active duty from 1951-54 in Artillery and Military Intelligence, and then continued in the US Army Reserve from 1954-88, in units in Salt Lake City Utah, Austin Texas and Champaign Illinois. When his reserve units would go on active duty in the summer, he was stationed for a time at Fort Bragg, NC and in the Panama Canal Zone. His military service was the gateway for his life as a revered educator of higher learning. Merlin loved to garden, with a specialty in tomatoes in all their varieties. He also loved to concoct and can special sorts of sauces, chutneys and pickles. He was an avid fix-it-man, not willing to give up until he got the job done. He never stopped reading and would enjoy watching his favorite TV shows (PBS or M*A*S*H) with the volume off so he didn’t have to listen to the commercials. He took his time to dine and enjoy a glass of Diet Dr Pepper on the side. He was a remarkable conversationalist about many subjects – history, politics, geology, music, technology, psychology, current events and of course literature. He was always on time, but never in a hurry. His humble, curious, steady, fun loving and grateful way of life made him a truly extraordinary individual. Merlin is survived by his loving wife of 71 years, Vilda Mae (Naegle) Forster, youngest sister Rosie Crafts, son-in-law Ben (Celia) Galewsky, his children, Dave (Becky) Forster, Angela (James) Anderson, Daan (Tracy) Forster, and Elena (Ryan) Robinson. Grandchildren- Zelda, Brandon, Kim, Kyle and Brett, Chris, Gretchen, Lucas, Nicholas and Kirsten, McKenna, Elijah, Zach and Ben, Amanda, Logan, Sophie, Jesse, Max, Dylan and Emma. Great grandchildren- Isabela, Xander, Chauncey, Lucas, Maleia and Lexi, Dakston and Taysom and Chela, Maddie, Jimbo, Beau and Jane, Hudson and Indigo, Rosie, Owen and Stevie Lynn. Merlin was preceded in death by his parents, Henry and Ila, brothers Walt and Neil, sister Louise, beloved daughter Celia and granddaughter Hope. The most precious connections to him were his beloved family and treasured friends throughout his life. Merlin was a loving son, brother, husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather who will be missed by all whoever had the pleasure to know him. In all the roles that he had, more than anything, he was a genuine teacher: of language, of the gospel of Jesus Christ, of understanding, of gratitude, of good humor, of life and of love. Merlin’s endearing personality, witty sense of humor and bright optimism no matter his circumstance will be cherished forever. Memorial services will be held on Saturday September 16th at 11 am at the LDS Pleasant View chapel at 650 East Stadium Avenue, Provo Utah 84604. Services will be available on Zoom for those who are not able to attend. Military honors will follow the services. In a final act of service, Merlin chose to donate his body to the University of Utah Medical School Donor Program. He was a giver until his last breath and we feel his life of giving continues to teach and educate with this final offering. We honor all the wonderful staff of Jamestown Assisted Living Memory Care and Ariel and Ari, his hospice caregivers, for their kind and patient care of Merlin in his final year of life. In lieu of flowers, the family asks you to donate to the BYU-Pathways Worldwide Fund in Merlin’s name. https://philanthropies.churchofjesuschrist.org/byu-pathway To send condolences to the family visit www.NelsonMortuary.com.