Prominent Caymanian dentist Dr. Thomas Henry Edlin Merren died on Tuesday at the Cayman Islands Hospital. He was 83.
Dr. Merren was a pioneer in dentistry and in business, and was one of the first Caymanians to go overseas to receive dental training.
He served as a dentist for 45 years after qualifying at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. He received his fundamental education at Munro College in St. Elizabeth, Jamaica, after leaving Triple C School in Cayman, and started work at the Government Dental Clinic in 1960. This involved travel to each district and to Cayman Brac under difficult circumstances.
Dr. Merren, who received an Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1975, was also honored on this year’s National Heroes Day as a pioneer of healthcare in Cayman.
Norman Bodden, a close friend of Dr. Merren, described him as “genuine and loyal.”
“Dr. Edlin was an outstanding family man, a good father and good husband,” he said. “He was also a very community-minded Caymanian who gave his best to the general public and to the church, not only locally but internationally as well.
“As a dentist, he provided top service to his patients and treated them with loving care and professionalism. He went on missionary trips to Haiti, where he worked tirelessly with other members of the community that were included in the mission to do dental work free of cost. That is the kind of person he was.”
He continued his professional development through the years by attending dental clinics at Emory University with his wife Helen, who served as his dental assistant for 40 years. Dr. Merren and his wife traveled to Haiti numerous times with a missionary team from Ministries in Action and Elmslie Memorial Church to provide dental services. He served on numerous statutory boards and was instrumental in founding the local Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast Committee.
Dr. Merren’s daughter Suzan recalled that in the 1980s, her father could often be seen walking rapidly on South Church Street with his Sony Walkman after work in the evenings. He also enjoyed his evening swim in the sea behind his home on South Church Street. “He had a full life and was energetic, loving, kind and exceptionally generous,” she said.
Premier Alden McLughlin, who is also minister of health, said he was deeply saddened to learn of Dr. Merren’s passing.
“I’ve known and respected him all my life. I can remember him as the lone dentist in Cayman, working out of a building next to the old George Town hospital in the ‘60s. My mother was the dispenser [pharmacist] at the hospital in those days,” he said.
He described Dr. Merren “as one of our medical pioneers, a fine dentist, a wonderful human being and a great Caymanian who served his country and his people in a number of important roles, including that of chairman of the Immigration Board.”
“His contributions to the development of modern-day Cayman are significant and should be acknowledged with gratitude. With his passing, we have lost another of the great nation builders of his era and I have lost a friend and mentor,” the premier added.
Dr. Merren was born on July 31, 1931 to Carley and Verdie Merren of South Church Street. His father was a merchant with several stores in the community. Dr. Merren developed a deep love for helping people, and he also enjoyed the comfort of a loving and close-knit family as one of four siblings.
He and his wife Helen Elizabeth Watler were married on Dec. 20, 1957 at Elmslie Memorial Church.
Dr. Merren is survived by his wife Helen; son Gregory; daughters Suzan, Paula, Lisa and Jennifer; seven grandchildren, Josh, Zach, Ashleigh, Lauren, Hannah, Jonathan and Emily; sons-in-law Robert Ebanks and Dean Scott; and a sister, Zelma Lee Watler.
Funeral services will be announced at a later date.