Merlin J. Hoiness, 96, of Harmony, Minn., died Thursday, Dec. 19, at Harmony Health Care in Harmony, Minn. A Celebration of Life service is at 1:30 p.m., Jan. 2, at the United Methodist Church in Harmony. Visitation is one hour prior to service.

Merlin was born Nov. 3, 1917, in Harmony to Edward and Jane Hoiness. He was raised in the Harmony area and attended Harmony High School. Merlin was united in marriage with Zola Bates May 14, 1941, at the Methodist Church in Decorah. In 1936 Merlin, along with some of his brothers, worked at the creamery and locker plant his father started in Harmony. Merlin processed beef and was a butter maker. In the early 1950s Merlin developed and sold a frozen food product called "Harmony brand pre-cooked meatballs in brown gravy," which he sold to grocery stores and restaurants in southeastern Minnesota. After the creamery was sold, Merlin worked in Harold Johnson's grocery store and his own grocery store until it was sold in 1965. In 1965 he, along with his friend, Bill Peterson, built and patented a portable ice fishing shelter and convinced the Harmony EDA to build a manufacturing plant. Merlin became a purchasing agent for several years. The ice fishing shelter was manufactured along with other items and evolved into the beginning of HECO, which still operates today. In 1975, Merlin managed the Harmony IGA store with his son, Jim. He retired from the store in 1981, and started Norsland Lefse with the help of Zola and son Phillip. They made and sold Norsland Lefse all over the United States. Norsland was sold and still operates today in Rushford, Minn. Merlin then went on to giving Amish tours in the Harmony area. He really enjoyed giving tours to people from around the world, including the King and Queen of Jordan, Helmut Schmidt of West Germany and a prime minister of India. Merlin was also a successful author of "91 Ways to Serve Lefse," which sold over 40,000 copies. Merlin loved his family, worked hard to improve his hometown and served his church in various jobs over the years.

Merlin is survived by his wife, Zola; four children: Robert (Sydne) Hoiness of Las Vegas, Nev., Kathy Boice, Harmony, Jim (Gayle) Hoiness, Rushford, Phillip (Chris Badger) Hoiness, Harmony; seven grandchildren; four step-grandchildren; 14 great-grandchildren; brother-in-law, Manville (Alta) Bates; sisters Lillian Turner and Muriel Waage; sisters-in-law Edyth Wood and Helen Scheevel.

Merlin was preceded in death by his parents, six brothers, two sisters and son-in-law Robert Boice.

In Lieu of flowers, memorials are preferred to Harmony Heathcare or the Harmony Community Foundation. Condolences may be mailed to: Zola Hoiness c/o Harmony Healthcare; 805 Main Avenue South; Harmony, MN 55939.