April 25th, 2003
Merklings are deemed ‘Renaissance caliber’
By Deborah Rose
A New Milford resident and his late wife have been named recipients of the town’s 2003 Leonardo DaVinci Award.
Frank Merkling, 79, and his wife, Erica, who died Jan. 6, were honored April 15 in a ceremony at New Milford’s town hall.
Mayor Bob Gambino welcomed Mr. Merkling and his daughter and son-in-law, Melissa Merkling Ashe and Shrdlu Ashe, with a few phrases of Italian that brought smiles to the faces of those in attendance.
Mr. Merkling’s “multi-faceted life and myriad experiences” and his “love and extensive knowledge of music of all kinds truly make Frank a man of Renaissance caliber,” Mayor Gambino stated in his proclamation for Mr. Merkling.
“I’m honored,” Mr. Merkling said in a phone interview Tuesday.
Mr. Merkling said the award “would have meant a lot to [my wife].”
“Just like how her show at the Senior Center [several months ago] was real recognition for her — it sort of climaxed her career and life — this would have done the same,” he related.
Both Mr. and Mrs. Merkling were born with the arts in their hearts.
Mr. Merkling wrote a number of musical compositions, one of which was a full-length symphony, during his high school career at Dwight School in New York City and during his studies at the National Art School in Washington, D.C., and at Harvard University.
He served as a U.S. Army Air Corps non-commissioned officer at the Pentagon.
Mr. Merkling met his future wife in 1949, and they married three years later.
After they became married, Mr. Merkling spent the next 50 years writing about music in various capacities. He served as music critic for “Music America” for five years, as assistant editor and editor for “Opera News” over a 20-year span and as music reviewer for The Spectrum’s sister paper, The News-Times, for nearly 25 years.
Mr. Merkling’s last music review ran in the Aug. 24, 2002, issue of The News-Times.
In February 2000, the Danbury Music Centre presented an evening of Mr. Merkling’s music, which up until that point was only on paper.
“It was wonderful. It was a capacity audience,” Mr. Merkling said.
“I was pleased to hear how good it sounded,” he remarked. “I had only heard it in my head up until then.
“That caps my career,” he said.
Mr. Merkling was also a founder and longtime chairman of the town’s Commission on the Arts. He recently resigned from the commission after more than 20 years of service.
Mrs. Merkling, who was born in Vienna, Austria, and fled to America with her family in 1939, attended the High School of Music and Art in New York City.
She then teamed up with her sister, Susan Perl, and drew fashion illustrations for Condé Nast publications, including “Glamour” and “Vogue.”
Mrs. Merkling went on to become art editor of the “Metropolitan Opera Guild” magazine “Opera News.”
She later illustrated children’s books for Doubleday and other publishers and taught fashion illustration at Parsons School of Design.
When she and Mr. Merkling moved to New Milford in 1974 with their three children — Melissa, Maria and Christian — she became a skilled organic gardener.
Here in New Milford, Mrs. Merkling continued to illustrate books and later served as art teacher for 15 years at the New Milford Senior Center.