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Hoosier Harvest Cookbook
 
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.

  • December 21
    'Gone Girl' at the Playhouse
    1 p.m., 4 p.m., 7 p.m. BC Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren St.
  • December 21
    Railroad museum features model Christmas trains´╗┐
    1 to 7 p.m. BC RR Museum, 18 W. Three Story Hill Road, Fruitdale
  • December 23
    Euchre
    6 p.m. Sycamore Valley Center, 746 Memorial Drive (fairgrounds)
  • December 23
    Open 12-step meetings in New Bellsville area
    6 to 7 p.m. Harmony Baptist Church, 3999 Mt. Liberty Road, New Bellesville
  • December 24
    Nashville government offices CLOSED
  • December 24
    Christmas Eve Communion service at Becks Grove church
    7 p.m. Becks Grove Christian Church, 8009 Becks Grove Road
  • December 24
    Candlelight service at Helmsburg church Christmas Eve
    7 p.m. Brown County Community Church, 2370 Main St., Helmsburg
  • December 24
    Candlelight service set for Christmas Eve
    6:30 p.m. Country Gospel Music Church, 5181 State Road 46 East
  • December 24
    Cordry church hosts candlelight service Christmas Eve
    7 p.m. Church of the Lakes, 8844 Nineveh Road
  • December 25
    Government Offices CLOSED
  • December 26
    Bingo
    6 p.m. Fruitdale Fire Station, 5200 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • December 26
    Brown County Government Offices CLOSED
  • December 26
    'Interstellar' at the Playhouse
    4 p.m., 7 p.m. BC Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren St.
  • December 27
    Euchre
    6 p.m. Sycamore Valley Center, 746 Memorial Drive (fairgrounds)
  • December 27
    Dave Miller at Abe Martin Lodge
    5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Abe Martin Lodge, Brown County State Park
  • December 27
    'Interstellar' at the Playhouse
    4 p.m., 7 p.m. BC Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren St.
  • December 27
    Live band at dance barn
    7:30 p.m. Mike's Dance Barn, 2277 State Road 46 West
  • December 28
    'Interstellar' at the Playhouse
    4 p.m., 7 p.m. BC Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren St.
  • December 29
    Jackson Township Board
    7 p.m. Jackson Township Board, Trustee's Office, 5765 Carmel Ridge Road
  • December 30
    Euchre
    6 p.m. Sycamore Valley Center, 746 Memorial Drive (fairgrounds)
  • December 31
    Live band at the Playhouse
    8 p.m. BC Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren St.
  • January 2
    Bingo
    6 p.m. Fruitdale Fire Station, 5200 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • January 8
    Go Club meeting Thursdays
    3:30 to 5 p.m. Brown County Public Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • January 10
    Free community breakfast at Sprunica church
    8 to 10 a.m. Sprunica Baptist Church, 3902 Sprunica Road
  • January 14
    Jeff Foster at Hobnob restaurant
    6 to 8 p.m. Hobnob, 17 W. Main St.
  • December 7
    Jeff Foster at Hobnob restaurant
    6 to 8 p.m. Hobnob, 17 W. Main St.