Merle C. Dustin

Obituary for Merle C. Dustin

May 9, 1924 - April 17, 2017
Contoocook, New Hampshire | Age 92


Merle Eaton Dustin

Merle Carroll Eaton Dustin, R.N., of Contoocook, passed away in Concord, N.H., on April 17. She was the widow of Eben H. Dustin, M.D., a Hopkinton native who served as Medical Director of the U.S. Department of State.

Merle was born on May 9, 1924 in Peabody, Mass., the daughter of Raymond Carroll Eaton and Ruth Porter Eaton of Danvers. Upon graduation from Holten High School, Class of 1942, she joined the U.S. Public Health Service's Cadet Nurse Corps and entered the Salem (Mass.) Hospital School of Nursing. She became a Registered Nurse in 1945 and after orientation at Fort Devens was assigned to Cushing General Hospital in Framingham, where she and her colleagues cared for wounded U.S. servicemen returning from the Pacific theater. President Truman placed the uniquely uniformed Cadet Nurse Corps under military command for the duration of the war, and Merle and her classmates felt very proud to be military members affiliated with the First Army Division until the Corps was disbanded in 1948.

In 1945 Merle married Eben H. Dustin, a young Army medical student who she met while both were assigned to Cushing General Hospital. Upon completion of his medical training and further military service with the USAF, the couple moved to Groveton, N.H., where Dr. Dustin practiced medicine for 11 years. Dr. Dustin entered the U.S. Foreign Service as a medical officer in 1965 and the couple embarked on a dramatic career change that saw them living in Afghanistan, Liberia, Laos, Viet Nam, and Austria on government service before a return to the Washington, DC area. They retired to Contoocook in 1989, residing on the farm where Eben, who predeceased Merle in 2003, had grown up.

Merle was raised in a family headed by a father who was an award-winning professional singer. In retirement, she was a member of the First Congregational Church of Hopkinton, N.H., and a long-time member of its Chancel and Bell Choirs, serving for many years on the church's Music & Arts Board. Merle was a loyal fan of the Hopkinton Town Band and a faithful attendee at any musical performances around the area. Her enthusiastic whistles and bell-ringing in appreciation of musical performances became legendary in the community.

Similarly, Merle was a vocal, regular attendee at local government meetings, including the Hopkinton Selectboard, school board, and even the library board. At age 90 she ran, unsuccessfully, for the Selectboard. She loved history and was a long-time member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), serving as regent of the Mercy Hathaway White Chapter DAR from 2013 to 2016. Merle soloed a small plane in 1963, loved cats and small dogs, and enjoyed alpine skiing most of her life despite nearly destroying a shoulder on a rope tow in the 1950s.

Her other interests in later years included advocacy for animal welfare and for the prevention of elder abuse. She detested zoos and circuses, had a soft spot for stray cats, was a passionate supporter of the SPCA and other animal rights organizations, and a staunch supporter of women's rights. She devoted much time to advocacy for Veterans' groups and wrote countless letters to newspapers and Members of Congress seeking formal veteran status for her beloved Cadet Nurse Corps. Merle was a familiar attendee at the evening taps ceremony during the summers at the New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery.

Predeceased by her siblings Aldene Gordon, Nathalie Bray, and Bruce P. Eaton, Merle was the last of her generation on both sides of her family. She is survived by a son, David, of Contoocook, daughter Darcie Nussbaum of Clearwater, Fla., grandchildren Heather Wing of Ann Arbor, Mich., Holly Wiggin of Waltham, Mass., and Jason Michael Dustin, of Clearwater, Fla. She is also survived by three great-grandchildren and many nieces and nephews.

A memorial service is planned at the First Congregational Church of Hopkinton, N.H., on May 13, at 10 a.m. In lieu of flowers, donations in Merle's memory may be made to the Concord Regional Visiting Nurses' Association. Interment of her ashes will take place privately.

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  • CRVNA Hospice - The Slusser Center
    30 Pillsbury St
    Concord, NH 03301

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