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Obituaries
 
Merritt Eugene 'Gene' Lawlis, 95, Bloomington

Merritt Eugene "Gene" Lawlis, 95, of Bloomington, died March 9, 2014.

Born Nov. 22, 1918, in Columbus, he was the only child of Daniel Webber Lawlis and Mabel Irene (Locke) Lawlis. He was a retired professor of English and of comparative literature at Indiana University, where he taught from 1951 to 1983.

He attended elementary school mostly in Indianapolis. For two years, while his mother was dying of tuberculosis, he lived in Columbus with two aunts. After graduating from high school in Indianapolis in 1936, he went to Wabash College, graduating in 1940.

In December 1940 he joined the Army Air Corps, almost a year before Pearl Harbor and the U.S. entry into World War II. Until late 1944 he taught aerial navigation, then went to combat as an aerial navigator of B-25s in the 345th Bomb Group. 

April 3, 1945, the Japanese shot down the plane he was navigating, and they held him prisoner on Hainan Island, China, from April to August 1945. The atomic bombs that destroyed Hiroshima Aug. 6 and Nagasaki Aug. 9, 1945, led directly to his liberation and saved his life. He weighed 120 pounds at the time and would have lived only a month or two longer. He spent two weeks recuperating in a Japanese hospital in Sanya, on Hainan Island, then finally came home to hospitals in Indiana, where he met and fell in love with 2nd Lt. Doris Naomi Abel, one of his nurses there.

In January 1946 he had recovered enough to enter graduate school at Harvard University, on the GI Bill. After one semester he went back home to Indiana and married Naomi. Together they returned to Harvard, where he finished his Ph. D. in June of 1951. He started teaching at I.U. that fall. He taught at Wabash College in 1964-65; otherwise, his teaching was entirely at I.U.

During the last part of his life, he worked on a book about prisoners of war in 10 wars, including WWII, called "Winking at Death" (2008). His own experience is interwoven throughout.

Survivors include his wife, Naomi Lawlis; three daughters, Marcia (husband, Glenn) Gero, of Bloomington and members of New Life Community Church in Nashville,  Barbara Rand of Boise, Idaho, and Abigail Kuzma of Indianapolis; nine grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

Arrangements for a family memorial are pending. He will be buried at Fountain Park Cemetery in Winchester.

Gene was a kind man, and a true gentleman. He will be greatly missed by his family, friends, colleagues and former students.

  • April 26
    County history center dedication slated
    2 p.m. Brown County History Center, 90 E. Gould
  • April 26
    Wildflower foray slated at historic site
    TC Steele State Historic Site, 4220 T.C. Steele Road, Belmont
  • April 26
    'McFarland, USA' at the Playhouse
    4 p.m., 7 p.m. BC Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren St.
  • April 26
    Morel Festival gospel service at music park
    10 a.m. Bill Monroe Music Park, 5163 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • April 26
    Southern gospel quartet at Gnaw Bone church
    9 a.m. Country Gospel Music Church, 5181 State Road 46 East
  • April 26
    Dave Miller at Abe Martin Lodge
    Noon to 2 p.m. Brown County State Park, State Road 46 East
  • April 27
    BC Alcoholic Beverage Board
    11 a.m. County Office Building, 201 N. Locust Lane
  • April 28
    Euchre
    6 p.m. Sycamore Valley Center, 746 Memorial Drive (fairgrounds)
  • April 28
    BC Convention & Visitors Bureau
    8:30 a.m. Brown County State Park, 1450 State Road 46 East (north entrance)
  • April 28
    BC Area Plan Commission
    6 p.m. County Office Building, 201 N. Locust Lane
  • April 28
    Open 12-step meeting in New Bellsville area
    8 p.m. Harmony Baptist Church, 3999 Mt. Liberty Road, New Bellesville
  • April 29
    BC Board of Zoning Appeals
    6 p.m. County Office Building, 201 N. Locust Lane
  • April 29
    Jeff Foster at Hobnob restaurant
    6 to 8 p.m. Hobnob, 17 W. Main St.
  • April 29
    Lake Lemon Conservancy District Board
    6 p.m. Benton Township Senior Center, 7606 State Road 45, Unionville
  • April 29
    BC Sheriff's Merit Board
    4 p.m. Sheriff's Office, Law Enforcement Center, 55 State Road 46 East
  • April 30
    Go Club at the library
    4 to 6 p.m. Brown County Public Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • April 30
    WRAPS
    7 to 9 p.m. Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • April 30
    Gospel jam & sing at Gnaw Bone church
    6:30 p.m. Country Gospel Music Church, 5181 State Road 46 East
  • May 1
    Bingo
    5 p.m. Fruitdale Fire Station, 5200 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • May 1
    Antique tractor, engine and machinery show at the fairgrounds
    7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Brown County 4-H fairgrounds
  • May 1
    'Back to the Future' at the Playhouse
    7 p.m. BC Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren St.
  • May 2
    Euchre
    6 p.m. Sycamore Valley Center, 746 Memorial Drive (fairgrounds)
  • May 2
    Dave Miller at Abe Martin Lodge
    5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Brown County State Park, State Road 46 East
  • May 2
    Morel Mushroom sale & festival at state park Nature Center
    10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Brown County State Park, 1450 State Road 46 East (north entrance)
  • May 2
    Antique tractor, engine and machinery show at the fairgrounds
    7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Brown County 4-H fairgrounds
  • May 2
    Spring Blossom Festival dance planned
    6 to 10 p.m. The Seasons Lodge, 560 State Road 46 East
  • May 2
    Spring Blossom Parade and food drive downtown
    11 a.m. downtown Nashville
  • May 3
    Read to a dog at the library
    2 to 3:30 p.m. Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • May 3
    Dave Miller at Abe Martin Lodge
    Noon to 2 p.m. Brown County State Park, State Road 46 East
  • May 3
    'The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel' at the Playhouse
    4 p.m., 7 p.m. BC Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren St.
  • May 3
    Antique tractor, engine and machinery show at the fairgrounds
    7 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Brown County 4-H fairgrounds
  • May 5
    Euchre
    6 p.m. Sycamore Valley Center, 746 Memorial Drive (fairgrounds)
  • May 5
    Open 12-step meeting in New Bellsville area
    8 p.m. Harmony Baptist Church, 3999 Mt. Liberty Road, New Bellesville
  • May 6
    Jeff Foster at Hobnob restaurant
    6 to 8 p.m. Hobnob, 17 W. Main St.
  • May 7
    WRAPS
    7 to 9 p.m. Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • May 7
    Gospel jam & sing at Gnaw Bone church
    6:30 p.m. Country Gospel Music Church, 5181 State Road 46 East
  • May 7
    BC photography club
    7 to 9 p.m. Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • May 8
    Bingo
    6 p.m. Fruitdale Fire Station, 5200 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • May 9
    Free community breakfast at Sprunica church
    8 to 10 a.m. Sprunica Baptist Church, 3902 Sprunica Road
  • May 9
    Open house conducted at New Song
    9 to 11 a.m. New Song Mission, 7202 Keith Donaldson Road, Freetown
  • May 11
    BC Election Board
    2 p.m. County Office Building, 201 N. Locust Lane
  • May 13
    Jeff Foster at Hobnob restaurant
    6 to 8 p.m. Hobnob, 17 W. Main St.
  • May 14
    Local Coordinating Council
    8 a.m. Comm. Corrections Office, Suite B, lower level of Veterans Hall, 902 Deer Run Lane,
  • May 16
    Dave Miller at Abe Martin Lodge
    5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Abe Martin Lodge, Brown County State Park
  • May 16
    Rock & mineral club
    6 p.m. Extension Office, 802 Memorial Drive at the fairgrounds
  • May 16
    Historic site hosts outdoor art contest
    7 a.m. to 4 p.m. TC Steele State Historic Site, 4220 T.C. Steele Road, Belmont
  • June 20
    Pollinator Awareness Day at state park Nature Center
    9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Brown County State Park, 1450 State Road 46 East (north entrance)