Merlyn Mantle, widow of Mickey, dies at 77
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Merlyn Louise Johnson was married to Mickey from Dec. 23, 1951, until he died of liver cancer at 65 on Aug. 13, 1995. They were separated for the final years of his life. An iconic switch hitter, the Mick batted .298 and hit 536 home runs in 18 years with the Yankees.
Merlyn had lived in Dallas since 1958 and was born in Cardin, Okla., about 50 miles from the birthplace of her high school sweetheart. According to a statement from family spokesman Marty Appel, she died peacefully at a hospice in Plano, Texas. She is survived by a 53-year-old son, David, who resides in McKinney, Texas; son Danny, 49, of Plano; and four grandchildren.
Merlyn is also survived by a sister, Pat LaFalier of Miami, Okla.; and daughter-in-law Kay, wife of Danny.
Merlyn was predeceased by two children: Mickey Jr., who died at 47 of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2000; and Billy, who battled Hodgkin's disease before a heart attack killed him in 1994. He was 36.
Merlyn co-authored a 1996 memoir of Mickey, "A Hero All His Life." She last appeared in public at the memorial service for Yankees outfielder Bobby Murcer, a two-year teammate of Mickey's, in Oklahoma City on Aug. 5, 2008. She attended a private dinner with guests but could not attend the service the following day.
Merlyn was involved in a legal battle between her family and Greer Johnson, Mantle's agent and a live-in aide in the last decade of his life, over the right to auction Mickey's possessions in 1997. A settlement was reached and more than $500,000 was secured at auction that November.
Mickey and Merlyn met two years before he debuted in the major leagues, while both were still in high school. Mickey attended Commerce High School in northeast Oklahoma, an archrival of Picher High School, where Merlyn was a cheerleader. The Mantles' first date was a movie along Route 66 in Miami, Okla.
They were married after Mickey's rookie season, in which he hit .267 in 96 games. Merlyn's burial is planned next to her husband and children at Sparkman Hillcrest Memorial Park in Dallas. Her name, without a year of death, had been inscribed on the family crypt.