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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.

  • January 28
    Jeff Foster at Hobnob restaurant
    6 to 8 p.m. Hobnob, 17 W. Main St.
  • January 28
    BC Sheriff's Merit Board
    4 p.m. Law Enforcement Center, 55 State Road 46 East
  • January 28
    BC Board of Zoning Appeals
    6 p.m. County Office Building, 201 N. Locust Lane
  • January 29
    Go Club at the library Thursdays
    3:30 to 5 p.m. Brown County Public Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • January 30
    Bingo
    6 p.m. Fruitdale Fire Station, 5200 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • January 30
    'Wild' at the Playhouse
    4 p.m., 7 p.m. BC Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren St.
  • January 31
    Euchre
    6 p.m. Sycamore Valley Center, 746 Memorial Drive (fairgrounds)
  • January 31
    Dave Miller at Abe Martin Lodge
    5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Abe Martin Lodge, Brown County State Park
  • January 31
    Live band at sports bar
    8 p.m. Salt Creek Golf Retreat, 2359 State Road 46 East
  • January 31
    'Wild' at the Playhouse
    4 p.m. BC Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren St.
  • January 31
    'Psycho' party at the Playhouse
    7:30 p.m. BC Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren St.
  • February 1
    'Wild' at the Playhouse
    4 p.m., 7 p.m. BC Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren St.
  • February 2
    Gnaw Bone Sewage District
    5:30 p.m. Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • February 3
    Euchre
    6 p.m. Sycamore Valley Center, 746 Memorial Drive (fairgrounds)
  • February 3
    Open 12-step meetings in New Bellsville area
    6 to 7 p.m. Harmony Baptist Church, 3999 Mt. Liberty Road, New Bellesville
  • February 3
    Bean Blossom Regional Sewer Board
    7:30 p.m. County Office Building, 201 N. Locust Lane
  • February 3
    Women's Bible study offered
    1 to 3 p.m. Cornerstone Inn, 54 E. Franklin St.
  • February 4
    Lake Lemon Conservancy District annual meeting
    6 p.m. Benton Township Senior Center, 7616 E. State Road 45, Unionville
  • February 4
    Jeff Foster at Hobnob restaurant
    6 to 8 p.m. Hobnob, 17 W. Main St.
  • February 4
    Van Buren Township Advisory Board
    7 p.m. Van Buren trustee's office, 4748 Christianburg Road
  • February 4
    BC Emergency Management Advisory Council
    8 a.m. Ambulance Base, 53 State Road 46 East
  • February 5
    Go Club meeting Thursdays
    3:30 to 5 p.m. Brown County Public Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • February 5
    Jackson Township Board
    6 p.m. Jackson Fire Station, 4831 Helmsburg Road
  • February 6
    Bingo
    5 p.m. Fruitdale Fire Station, 5200 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • February 7
    Euchre
    6 p.m. Sycamore Valley Center, 746 Memorial Drive (fairgrounds)
  • February 7
    Dave Miller at Abe Martin Lodge
    5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Abe Martin Lodge, Brown County State Park
  • February 7
    Karaoke at sports bar
    8 p.m. Salt Creek Golf Retreat, 2359 State Road 46 East
  • February 7
    Cabin Fever Concert features local music
    7 to midnight The Seasons Lodge, 560 State Road 46 East
  • February 9
    Washington Township Trustees
    7 p.m. Parkview Church of the Nazarene, 1750 State Road 46 East
  • February 9
    Reservation deadline for Valentine's tea at local shop
    Sweetea's Tea Shop, 225 S. Van Buren St., Suite C, Coachlight Square
  • February 10
    Euchre
    6 p.m. Sycamore Valley Center, 746 Memorial Drive (fairgrounds)
  • February 10
    Peaceful Valley Heritage Preservation Society meeting set
    6:30 p.m. Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • February 10
    BC Genealogical Society meeting slated
    2 p.m. Brown County History Center, 90 E. Gould
  • February 11
    East Hill Cemetery meeting slated
    7 p.m. Morgantown Community Center, 269 W. Washington St.
  • February 12
    BC Convention & Visitors Commission
    8:30 a.m. County Office Building, 201 N. Locust Lane
  • February 13
    Bingo
    5 p.m. Fruitdale Fire Station, 5200 State Road 135 North.
  • February 13
    Daddy-daughter Valentine's dance Friday the 13th
    6:30 p.m. Sweetea's Tea Shop, 225 S. Van Buren St., Suite C, Coachlight Square
  • February 14
    Free community breakfast at Sprunica church
    8 to 10 a.m. Sprunica Baptist Church, 3902 Sprunica Road
  • February 17
    Hamblen Trustee Board annual review
    6:30 p.m. 2314 Hickory Ridge Lane off Hornettown Road
  • February 19
    Woodlands project dinner, meeting slated
    6 p.m. Parkview Church of the Nazarene, 1750 State Road 46 East
  • February 20
    Bingo
    6 p.m. Fruitdale Fire Station, 5200 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • March 7
    Meet 'Wilderness Plots' author at the library
    7 p.m. Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • March 8
    'Wilderness Plots'-themed concert planned
    4 p.m. BCHS, 235 School House Lane
  • March 8
    Brown County bridal tour slated
    10 a.m. to 6 p.m. various locations
  • March 10
    Soil & water conservation district to celebrate 62 years
    6 p.m. Brown County History Center, 90 E. Gould
  • March 21
    Venders needed for Jackson TFD yard sale
    8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Jackson Township Fire Department, 4831 Helmsburg Road
  • April 26
    County history center dedication slated
    2 p.m. Brown County History Center, 90 E. Gould