Randy E. Richmond


We’d never met in person sir, life just never gave the chance
My brother knows your son quite well, and I’ve seen his lovely ranch
He shared with me the story of your life and World War II
Of the grisly march out from Bataan that claimed more than the few

Forty-two months a prisoner, yet you managed to survive
With every day and night a struggle, just to stay alive
We can’t begin to imagine the horrors with each step that you trod
With dead and dying all around, where atheists called out for God

Like so many veterans with you now who’ve joined in Heaven’s ranks
You probably didn’t hear enough, a “Well done” or heartfelt “Thanks!”
So, on this new Memorial Day, I salute you Mr. Lee
A face behind the many flags, because of you… we’re free!

Thank you for your service, your suffering, and sacrifice
And thanks to all your comrades who paid the greatest price
For our very lives and liberties… for a grandchild’s sweet, sweet kiss
We owe our freedom to our Lord… and to men just such as this

I’m told you enjoyed your horses and were an outdoors kind of guy
Loved your friends and family and Montana’s endless sky
Where you rest, a flag will soon be placed in remembrance and with pride
I hope you’ve roped your mustang sir, are saddled up… and ride

Author’s Note: For Mr. Merrill Lee and the many, many quiet heroes who have, in serving their country, touched every one of our lives and asked nothing in return… please remember them all this Memorial Day… and always.


Merrill LaVon Lee  Merrill LaVon Lee
Merrill LaVon Lee: 1912 - 2004
ROUNDUP — Papa is gone. Sure the paddock and the stable are dear to the heart, the greening grass and the prospect of a new crop of foals has never been better. But no spread is so good that God cannot make one better. So when the Head Boss called, our Papa laid down his work and moved on to The Greenest Pasture.

His name was Merrill LaVon Lee, born in Panaca, Nev, Nov. 29, 1932, the first of six children. His fond childhood memories were of hunting trips with his father, camping out, gathering pinion pine nuts and cutting posts. His love of horses started while (hating wild mustangs with his younger brother Arshal while still in their teens.

Merrill graduated from Panaca High School. He then served in the CCC camps in Yellowstone Park before enlisting in the Army Air Corp. In 1941, Merrill was stationed in the Philippine Islands prior to the U.S. entering World War II. After being captured on the Baton Peninsula, April 9, 1942, Merrill endured the death march and 42 months as a Japanese POW. After being liberated in August 1945, Merrill came to Montana to attend good friend and fellow POW Ben Steele’s wedding. While there, he met the love of his life, Virginia Spidel. They married Sept. 2, 1948. Three children quickly followed: Susan, Elton and Robert They traveled the country for the next 12 years, living at various air force bases, including three years in Germany, until Merrill’s retirement in 1964. Coming home to Virginia’s family ranch near Roundup, they built a home and pursued their lifelong dream of raising quarter horses. Merrill strongly believed in Churchill’s words that the outside of a horse was good for the inside of a man.

Merrill never lost his love for the outdoors, hunting and camping well into his 80s. He had a story to tell about every pasture, spring, winter storm, neighbor, mare and season of his life. We will miss the family gatherings, with his telling of his stories, but they will always be a part of our remembrances.

In his later years, he was still able to enjoy the thrill of watching their horses run on the track and fellowship with the friends at the LDS church in Roundup. Merrill was excited to frequently visit the temple in Billings while he was still able.

He celebrated his 91st birthday last November, and lived to enjoy another Montana spring. While out in the pasture preparing the ground for seeding on Tuesday, April 20, 2004, he breathed his last breath and died with his boots on with the wide Montana sky above him.

Merrill is survived by his wife, Virginia; daughter Susan and husband Rod Dahl, their children, Christopher (Leslie), Zachary (Sandy) and Toby (Jody); son Elton, daughter-in-law Barbara, their children Ezra (Kristy). Amos (Sandra), Ruth Perry (Jack), Isaiah, Esther, Peter, Zephaniah, Abigail, Moriah, Tabitha and Hannah; son Robert and wife Jayne, their children Edward, Elizabeth and Rebecca; great-grandchildren, Samantha Dahl, Augustus Dahl, Sophie Lee, Cayman Lee, Brigem Dahl and James Perry; brother Cecil (Genevieve); sister Gail; and numerous nieces and nephews.

Visitation will be from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, April 23, at the Wier Funeral Chapel. Funeral services will be held at Wier Funeral Home in Roundup at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 24. LDS Brother Joseph Ingalls will be presiding. Interment with military honors will be at the family cemetery on the Dahl ranch immediately following the service. In lieu of flowers, memorials can be made to the Roundup 4-H Council or your local VFW.