News & Press: LeadingAge Texas Connection

Member Highlight: Wayne Merrill is Not Done Being a Change Agent

Thursday, October 5, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Dorothy Ferrick
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Wayne Merrill bought a house on the Baptist Retirement Community (BRC) campus 30 years ago when he began working for the senior living community as its CEO, and he still resides there to this day. He and his wife plan to live there for the remainder of their retirement as well, noting that they love the people who live and work there, they approve of the way the community is run, they like the city and they enjoy the convenience of having most everything they need within the 100-acre campus. Though Merrill is no longer CEO, he is still involved with the community along with other companies and organizations. Currently, he dedicates several hours a week to volunteer with BRC’s auxiliary where he serves as assistant treasurer. The auxiliary is one of the largest in the nation and has its own gift shop. In addition, he serves as executive vice president of West Texas Power, has been serving Hunger Plus as its president for the last 20 years, serves as a Deacon at First Baptist Church and heads up the financial committee for the Silver Haired Legislature. In the midst of all this, he even golfs, goes fishing and spends leisure time with his wife enjoying all the amenities Baptist Retirement Community offers. Though he is 82 years old, he is still a powerhouse and change agent.

“While some may think 52 is too young of an age to move into a senior living community, I can honestly say it has been so incredibly convenient these last 30 years,” said Merrill. “While the average age used to be in the mid-80s, we are seeing more and more younger people in their 60s and 70s move into residences here. People do not realize just how good life here is until they experience it for themselves. BRC takes care of all the maintenance, pick up the trash, cover the insurance on the house, change the lightbulbs, fix the appliances and AC units and much more. These are the things you come to appreciate as you age and maintain an active and busy schedule. I loved working here and enjoy living here. I moved in when I accepted the position of CEO. Seeing how the community functioned gave me much insight, and I didn’t want to move away once I resigned as CEO in 2004. The community and the market have transformed to be sure, but Baptist Retirement Community is still the leading CCRC in the Concho Valley to this day.”

When Merrill was CEO, BRC had six skilled nursing divisions with 300 licensed beds, 83 single family homes, 104 duplexes, 73 hotel suites and 48 one- and two-bedroom apartments. In the last few years, BRC built Sagecrest Alzheimer’s Care Center, two Green House Homes® and The Crest, which are two memory care assisted living homes modeled after the small home concept. Merrill has witnessed much growth and positive change over the last 30 years. When the focus started shifting from predominantly skilled nursing care, BRC expanded to serve seniors in need of all types of care.

“I never knew what my day would entail when I worked at Baptist Retirement Community,” said Merrill. “My wife jokes that I should write a book detailing all the things I experienced while working and living here. Once, we attended the wedding of an old maid missionary who was in her 90s. She had fallen in love with a man who had lost his wife. I went to their wedding on the fifth floor of the high rise building and watched her walk down the aisle for the first time in her life with the assistance of a walker. There’s a lot of interesting, successful and diverse people living here. My wife and I have had the pleasure of getting to know people from all walks of life while living here. Several of our good friends have chosen to retire here as well. San Angelo in general is a wonderful place to live, work, raise a family and retire. We are within close proximity to an airport, it’s easy to get around, there are fun and interesting things to do and there is a lot of natural scenery and history in a warm climate. There’s a little more than 100,000 people living here, and the cost of living is reasonable. While I grew up in Sinton down by Corpus Christi, I’ll be spending the rest of my life in this little piece of paradise.”

Merrill planned on retiring in 1992, but stayed active both in the workforce and socially because he thrives on leading a productive and meaningful lifestyle. He is proud of the Baptist Retirement Community auxiliary, which is one of the largest auxiliaries in the nation. Currently, they have more than half a million dollars in the bank which they use for expenses that benefit the residents, such as new buses for transportation and new whirlpool tubs for medical therapy. He is also one of 120 individuals who serves on the Texas Silver Haired Legislature in Austin. Each legislature is elected by the people living in each area in the state. He represents the Concho Valley in West Texas. The group is elected by committees in the area and seeks to pass resolutions. During congressional hearings the legislature presents their resolutions. Most recently, Merrill and fellow members pushed for their number one resolution, to discourage texting and driving.

“Several elderly people have lost their lives because people are not paying attention,” said Merrill. “We listen to needs and we do our best to represent the senior demographic. We tried to raise the limit on Medicaid for personal allowance to $75, but it didn’t pass. You win some, you lose some. I’ve learned a lot more than this in the course of my lifetime though. I’ve learned that some people will come to you with their problems, and even though you both know that you can’t do anything for them, they just need you to listen, they just need to vent. I’ve learned that having an open-door policy and making myself accessible opened up these doors of communication so people felt like they were heard. I’ve learned that it’s important to live each day one at a time to make it fun and always have something to look forward to, big and small.”

Merrill has certainly been living and following his dreams. He has been a true inspiration to his children, all of whom obtained degrees from Texas Tech and went off to lead successful lives. Three of his children still live in San Angelo and Merrill and his wife have nine grandchildren to spoil. They love welcoming all of the family to visit them at Baptist Retirement Community, and eagerly await Thanksgiving as they will be hosting it at their house this year.

Source: Lauren Witt/Amy Jones, The Point Group