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David Merklin, Freeport hobby shop owner, dies at 79

Dave Merklin, the owner of Dave's Hobby and

Dave Merklin, the owner of Dave's Hobby and Craft Shop in Freeport, is shown on Aug. 8, 1995. Merklin died on March 26, 2015, at the age of 79. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams

For more than 40 years, people of all ages flocked from throughout the East Coast to Dave's Hobby and Craft Shop in Freeport.

In the Atlantic Avenue store's aisles, they found a seemingly endless supply of build-it-yourself, wooden and plastic kits of model cars, planes, ships and tanks.

The owner, David Merklin, was as interested in encouraging and helping hobbyists as he was in selling his massive inventory, piled floor to ceiling, said his daughter, Maralin Gray of North Bellmore.

Merklin's stock included the newest models, but also rare editions no longer being produced.

"His hobby was the hobby store," Gray said.

Merklin died on March 26 at a nursing home in Rockville Centre, where he had spent the past three years. It was the only time he had ever lived outside of Freeport, his daughter said. He was 79.

Dave's Hobby opened in 1968 and in its heyday was filled with eager model builders energized by Merklin's tireless enthusiasm. Her father's interest in models began when he was 12 and started to help repair toy trains at a local hobby shop, Gray said.

George Fredlund, who went from teenage customer to employee, became a good friend of Merklin's. He recalled how selling was only part of Merklin's interest.

If youngsters brought in broken models to fix, Merklin would show them how to repair them, even if it meant taking parts from a similar, sealed kit, said Fredlund, who now lives in Florida.

"He was motivated by watching people learn and grow," he said.

The store closed in 2011, due in part to a decline in teenage model builders and to the owner's failing health.

In addition to his daughter, survivors include a son, George Merklin of Farmingdale; a brother, Francis X. Merklin II, of Seaford; and three grandchildren.

Merklin's other daughter, Helen LaValley, of Massapequa, died in 2013, Gray said, adding that her father and mother, Betsy Morales, divorced in 2000.

Funeral services were held March 30 at Our Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Freeport, followed by burial at St. John Cemetery in Middle Village.

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