Merrill E. Thomsen | Obituaries

Brookside Funeral Home & Crematory

Merrill Elizabeth Thomsen was born the second of four daughters to John and Glennie Thomsen of Mansfield, Washington, on February 26th, 1945. She grew up in the wheat fields, haystack rocks and panoramic views of the plateau of North Central Washington, in an area Dubbed Mud Springs by the settlers. The beauty and the solitude of the country nurtured her love of flora and fauna, as well as the traits of curiosity, imagination, independence, and her ability to see the big picture.

She first attended school in a one room schoolhouse a few miles from the farm, where she made the first of her many life-long friendships. She graduated from high school in the very small town of Mansfield in 1963. In high school, her leadership skills bloomed, and were honored when she attended Eastern Washington State College from 1963 to 1967, where she held office in student government and women’s service societies including SPURS prior to getting her BA in Education, with focuses on Natural Sciences and Language Arts. She later earned an MEd in Gifted Education at CWU and Administrative Credentials at WWU.

Merrill did not at first have a “calling” for being a teacher, but when she got her first job teaching middle school in the Bellevue School District, she found her creativity and capacity for innovation helped her excel in her work. She went on to teach in Spokane and Yakima in Washington, as well as McClain, Virginia. Her career focus de ella was teaching critical thinking and other challenging in-depth course matter to gifted students. She also trained and mentored other teachers. Merrill retired after 35 years in 2004.

In 1976, Merrill met James D. Horton, who would become her husband and best friend. James was a risk taker and entrepreneur whose career at various times had included banking, racing pit crew, and working on the Puyallup Tribal Police force. Marriage to James caused Merrill to stretch her comfort zone and grow in ways never expected, and she also took them to Washington, DC, where James worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

As James was of Yakama Nation heritage, their family grew by adopting Benjamin (Blackfoot Nation) in 1983, and Kate (Yupik) two years later. The family eventually landed in Yakima. James died in 2007.

Besides her family, her life revolved around her many loves: The written word, including writing poetry, essays, journaling and reading; Music, including singing in chorales and musicals and finding new singer songwriters for listening; Archiving and organizing photo albums; The Yakima Unitarian Universalist Church, where she was active on the board and doing lay led services; Activism, including being involved in organizing the Yakima Women’s March in 2016 and after; Tuning in to the metaphysical communication of the universe; And, last but not least, the many close friends particularly of her sisterhood de ella, too many to list here, with whom she kept in contact over the years and who greatly enriched her life de ella.

After being a widow for 14 years, Merrill took an intrepid leap into romance with long-distance love Neal Taslitz, who brought her much laughter, passion, and companionship.

Merrill was serious and whimsical, organized, and intuitive, dedicated, and independent, a social introvert, and an inspiration to many people young and old. Ella’s memories of her will be cherished by many.

Merrill was preceded in death by husband James Horton in 2007, and by her parents in 1978. She is survived by son Benjamin Running Wolf; Grandson Dante McConville; daughter Kate Horton; sisters Nance Thomsen, Christina (Tina) Thomsen-Park (John), and Wisten Aldrich (Glenn); and nephews Chris Aldrich (wife Jennifer and son Parker) and Jason Aldrich (wife Jennifer and daughters Sara and Emma).

A Celebration of Life will be held Saturday, February 19, 2022 at 1:00 pm at Shaw & Sons Funeral Home, 201 N. 2nd St., Yakima, WA. A second celebration will be held at the family farm in Douglas County in late spring. Memorials may be made to the Mansfield Museum, PO Box 274, Mansfield, WA 98830 or sent in care Brookside Funeral Home (PO Box 1267, Moxee, WA 98936) who is caring for the family. Memories and condolences can be shared at


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.