MERRILL R. KEATON (1914 - 2006)

July 9, 2007

Our office has been contacted to assist in finding information regarding a former Internee of Santo Tomas during the WWII period. Merrill R. Keaton was interned at Santo Tomas and was liberated upon the return of the U.S. Forces to the Philippines. Subject passed away February 11, 2007 and his family has requested any and all information that is available on this person. Can you help in this quest?

Ralph Levenberg
POW Consultant/Coordinator
Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) Reno, Nevada

The following obituary was Published in TimesHeraldOnline on Feb. 16, 2006.

Feb. 3, 1914 - Feb. 11, 2006

Merrill "Mel" Ralph Keaton of Sparks, Nev. passed away Feb. 11 at the age of 92 from bone cancer. Merrill was born on Feb. 3, 1914 at the family home on Marin Street in Vallejo.

Merrill attended school at Farragut, Washington, Vallejo Jr. and Sr. High School graduating in 1932. He entered the apprentice program at Mare Island Naval Shipyard in 1932 as a Shipfitter. Merrill transferred to the Naval Shipyard at Cavite, Philippines as a Planner and Estimator in 1938.

While in the Philippines, the base was bombed by the Japanese three days after Pearl Harbor was bombed. He was taken prisoner with thousands of others at the prison camp at Santo Tomas, Manila. During this time he worked for the “underground” smuggling food and medicine to the prisoners. This experience had a profound impact on his life, and is the kind of experience that would make a great book. He was a prisoner for three years. He was released on his 31st birthday, Feb. 3, 1945.

After his released from the prisoner of war camp he came back to resume his career in San Francisco at the Naval Shipyard at Hunters Point, where he served 15 years as Chief Planner and Estimator. He returned to Mare Island and was in charge of Manpower and Facility until his retirement from Mare Island in 1969.

Merrill, with his wife Dee, began their own business, D&M Tax service, which they worked for a number of years while still raising a family. You could talk to him about any subject and he had an incredibly detailed memory of the past. He is renowned for his kindness to strangers; sometimes he gave people money and sometimes he gave them a job.

Merrill loved music and he played guitar and accordion, and at 91 could still do a jig and sing a song for your pleasure.

He is a man who has lived many lives and has worked hard. He loved life no matter where it took him. He always had a positive and happy attitude. Although he had many physical ailments, no matter what stresses he had to deal with, he adjusted and kept going. Just a mild mannered man looking for an opportunity to help others through his life's travels, Merrill will be missed by his family and many friends.

Merrill was a member of the Masonic Lodge 87 of Vallejo and served as Senior Warden to Service Lodge 95 in Manila just prior to the war in 1941. He was a member of First Baptist Church, Vallejo and Spanish Springs Baptist Church, Spanish Springs, Nev.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Ralph and Mary Frances Keaton; and his step-son Gordon Moffett.

Merrill leaves behind a wife of 37 years, Dolores; a sister Martha Alderson; one son Richard (Linda); nine step-children, Lynn Granger, Lee Wright, Lon (Evanne) Wright, Lorn (Debbie) Wright, Larrel (Arlene) Wright, Lamarr (Kathy) Wright, Lorelei (John) Hofstrand and Allen (Martina) Moffett; and 31 grand and great grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held 11 a.m. Feb. 24 at Rainbow Bend Club House, Sparks, Nev. with the Rev. Henry Lawson officiating. A memorial will also be held 3 p.m. Feb. 25 at First Baptist Church, Vallejo with the Rev. Al Marks officiating.

In lieu of flowers donations may be made to the Shriners Hospital, Spanish Springs Baptist Church or First Baptist Church of Vallejo.

Published in TimesHeraldOnline on Feb. 16, 2006

If you would like to share any information about Merrill R. Keaton
or would like to be added to my POW/Internee e-mail distribution list,
please let me, Tom Moore, know.

"I'll Be Seeing You"
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