Links to past keep retired teacher busy

She works with public museum, studies genealogy

Jan. 31, 2012

When Nancy Merriman of Wauwatosa retired from teaching upper elementary classes after 35 years, some of her colleagues worried that she might be bored. She loved the connections she'd made with her students and their families, and had even been named Teacher of the Year by the Wisconsin Council for the Gifted and Talented.

But Merriman is still teaching, and learning, as well. As a docent on the Streets of Old Milwaukee at the Milwaukee Public Museum, she studies the city's history and shares it with visitors. On special occasions, like the museum's popular "Alive" events, she dons a costume and becomes a character from the past.

Hobbies also keep Merriman busy. A tenacious knitter, she once created a sweater adorned with an image of the "Mona Lisa." It took three years to finish, she said, and when it was done, she turned it over to her son to present to his fiancée. She also knit a sweater graced by an image of Michelangelo's "David" for her other son, not coincidentally named David.

Her passion these days, in addition to spending time with her mother, 102-year-old Ruth Hummer, is genealogy.

"It really grounds you and helps you get a better understanding of who you really are," she said, "and it's allowed me to connect with some really fabulous people."

In Merriman's case, uncovering the family's past has resulted in some life-changing surprises - including scandals documented on the pages of old editions of the Chicago Tribune and a highly accomplished Southern branch of the family tree more than 200 relatives strong. Before her research, Merriman had no idea they even existed.

"I went down and this huge family met with me and so we are now connected. It's just great," she said. "What it showed me is that we're all interconnected and if we were really to look, we'd find that out."

To recommend a person be featured in Someone You Should Know, send an email to or call (262) 446-6643.


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