On April 3, 1974, an F5 tornado tore through the heart of Zenia, Ohio, killing 33 people and injuring more than 1,300, destroying or damaging more than 1,400 buildings. Within hours Brethren Disaster Ministries called for volunteers. Myron Zerger received the call in Dearborn Mich.
Within hours, without fuss nor fanfare, Zerger was heading south to help rebuild the community. He had spent the prior Christmas in Homestead, Fla., rebuilding after an F2 tornado and would go on to assist in Goshen, Ind., in the “Palm Sunday” tornado outbreak in 1965.
Myron Zerger, peace activist, teacher, father and grandfather, died on Jan. 5, 2021. His son, Tom Zerger, said the cause was a wonderful, long-lived life. A memorial service will be held at a later date.
Myron was born Dec. 2, 1929, to Peter E. and Viola A. Flickner Zerger on the family farm near Elyria, Kan., a community deeply rooted in the Mennonite Church. The Mennonite church, one of the historic “Peace Churches” of the United States teaches the principals of service, tithing and peace.
Zerger’s deep spiritual commitment informed his character and life choices. He was a conscientious objector to the Korean War, performing alternative service at Brooklane Farm, a mental health facility in Hagerstown, Md., owned and operated by the Mennonite Central Committee.
It was there that he met his wife, Ardis Brenneman, of Kalona, Iowa, a nurse at the facility. They married on April 30, 1954, at East Union Mennonite Church, Kalona.
Zerger taught science and math in the Dearborn Public Schools for over three decades, where he also coached football. Myron and Ardis raised four children: Nadine, Peter, Tom and Jennifer. The family spent their summers camping throughout the country, collecting rocks with the Dearborn Rock Club. Throughout his entire life, Zerger donated 25% of his teacher’s salary to his church, environmental and peace groups.
His commitment to peace and social justice led him to Nicaragua and Guatamala from 1990—2010, on peace delegations in opposition to U.S. support for right wing movements in Central America. In later years, Myron traveled to Alaska with the “New Communities Project,” in order to learn from the Indigenous communities.
Throughout their lives, Myron and Ardis advocated on behalf of people living with mental health issues and worked tirelessly to remove the stigma of mental illness. The couple regularly made surprise visits to Northville Psychiatric Hospital monitoring the facility conditions. They served as presidents of the Dearborn Chapter of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness).
After Myron’s death, his son Tom found a small scrap of paper in his wallet with faded hand writing that perfectly described Myron Zerger:
7 Faces of Intention.
1. Be Creative
2. Be Kind
3. Be Love
4. Be Beauty
5. Be Ever Expansive
6. Be Abundant
7. Be Receptive and Peaceful
Survivors include children: Nadine Zerger of Goshen, Ind., Peter Zerger of Livonia, Mich., Thomas Zerger of Dearborn, Mich., and Jennifer Brown (Zerger) of Mt. Clemens, Mich.; grandchildren: Alisha, Jordon and Nicole, Ardis and Cora; great-grandchildren: Karsten, Richie, Ariana and Mason Myron.
Memorial gifts should be directed to NAMI of Metro Detroit: http:nami:metro.org/ or Living Peace Church of the Brethren. 684 Deer St., Plymouth, MI 48170