John Merlin Cramer, 85, of Chatfield, passed away on Saturday, June 11, 2022. Merlin was born on October 2, 1936 to William and Evelyn (Pogatchnik) Cramer in Randall, MN. Here, William owned a gas station and auto repair shop, prior to obtaining his welding certification. William welded on United States Navy ships during WWII, which brought he, Evelyn and their four sons to Oakland, California; Milwaukee, Wisconsin and finally Chatfield, Minnesota.
Merlin was 8 years old when he arrived in Chatfield. His father purchased a building on North Main Street which became a welding shop in 1945, acquired an adjacent gas station in 1950, and built a two bay self-serve carwash in 1965. Merlin worked with his father for a number of years prior to acquiring all three businesses outright in 1970.
Merlin married his high school sweetheart, Donna Baier, in 1956. The couple raised four children: Daniel, Cindy, Michael and Brian. Merlin enjoyed taking fishing trips up north with his family, was a Den Leader for the Boy Scouts and served his country for 8 years as Military Police in the Army Reserve. He was a talented designer and craftsman not only in metal fabrication but also woodworking, having built bunkbeds and rocking horses for his grandchildren. He designed his own home, breaking ground in 1989.
Merlin expanded the welding shop by adding a sizable addition. He worked together with his son Mike on many significant fabrication projects including building innumerable Cramer custom built trailers and designing and fabricating the first dipper line for Rochester Medical. He teamed with a Swiss engineer to design and build massive mechanical compost screeners, one of which went to Disney World in Florida.
These are but a few of Merlin’s achievements, but among the most rewarding jobs were the countless repair and fabrication projects for local farmers and workers. He engaged in community undertakings such as donating his time to weld the rebar within Chatfield’s first swimming pool.
Merlin sold the businesses outright to Mike in 1998. Upon retiring, Merlin and Donna traveled throughout Europe, to Hawaii and Alaska. The couple attended polka festivals throughout the Midwest and devoted time to the family farm. He and his wife were devout Catholics and members of St. Mary’s Catholic Church.
Merlin is survived by his wife Donna, married 66 years; his sons Dan Cramer of Omaha, Mike (Vicki) Cramer of Chatfield and Brian (Mariann) Cramer of Owatonna; son- in-law K.C. Reed of Rochester; 13 grandchildren and 22 great grandchildren; brother Bob (Gloria) Cramer of Oregon, sister-in-law Jane Cramer of Ohio and several nieces and nephews. Merlin is preceded in death by parents William and Evelyn Cramer; brothers Don (Joanne) and Ed (Lois) Cramer; daughter Cindy Reed and many cousins.
Funeral service will be held on Tuesday, June 21, 2022 at 11:00 a.m. at St. Mary’s Catholic Church of Chatfield. Visitation will be held at St. Mary’s directly prior to the funeral from 9:30 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. Online condolences are welcome at rileyfuneralhomes.com