Denise Tangren Merkl [Courtesy photo]

Denise Tangren Merkl, 70, died of cardiac arrest on Nov. 30, 2019, at Canyonlands Care Center. She passed without apparent pain, which is of great comfort to her family. Mrs. Merkl is a native of Moab and a descendant of Moab pioneers.

Denise Gayle Tangren was born Sept. 22, 1949, in Salt Lake City to Marvin

Clair Tangren and Gayle Loveridge Tangren. She was the first child in a family of two girls and three boys. When she was three, Denise’s family returned to Moab. Her father purchased a sloping piece of land 4 miles south of Moab, between Pack Creek and Spanish Valley Drive, and established Clair’s Body Shop, an auto repair and salvage business.

Denise remembered her childhood vividly, from very early years onward. She once expressed that her childhood was the happiest time of her life. She grew up without television, on 13 acres bordering Pack Creek, where her imagination was free to roam. The outdoors figured prominently in her experiences. There were oak groves, stands of squawbushes and big cottonwood trees, quail, wild cats living in junk cars, pet German Shepherds, and a frog pond with bulrushes, cattails, frogs, water snakes and many birds. Denise loved to ride bikes, play tetherball and hopscotch. She easily learned to read and also loved to be read to by her mother. Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, and Little Women were some of the books she heard aloud.

Denise did not like to play with dolls. Instead, she built the playhouse, complete with floors and roofs; the same with a treehouse. At home, she was a leader, and sometimes a rebel. With neighbor girl Kathleen Keogh, she established a Girl’s Interest Club. She also wrote and directed summer plays, with an all-children cast. Her productions included “Cinderella” and “Sleeping Beauty.” She was uncommonly bright, a stellar elementary student, but always too shy to even raise her hand in class. At Grand County High School, she excelled in English, history, shorthand and typing. She wanted to become a secretary. She graduated in 1967 and attended Stevens–Henager Business College in Ogden for a brief time.

On May 24, 1968, in Reno, Nevada, Denise married George Phillips, of Booneville, Arkansas. The newlyweds lived in Moab and George worked at the Potash mine. They also lived in Fresno, California, before making a final move to Glenwood Springs, Colorado, where George took a long-term position at the Mid-Continent Coal Mine. A son, Stephen Phillips, was born on May 20, 1972, in Glenwood Springs. Denise loved her son and worked hard to be a good mom. She helped Stephen with school work, praised him when he did well and helped him when he struggled. She was an active homemaker, always beautifying her surroundings, painting and remodeling, planting flower gardens. She had a knack for making houseplants thrive; she taught herself macramé and made beautiful plant hangers and even a hanging end table.

Going to yard sales and collecting were two of Denise’s hobbies. Her study of historical subjects and thirst for learning was evident in her book choices and large library. She enjoyed music and amassed a wide variety; her collection of country-western 45s was impressive. Later in her life, she collected Blue Willow plates.

Denise and George divorced in 1981. After living in Grand Junction and Moab, Denise moved to Montrose, CO, and managed a motel. She met Steve Merkl and the two became a couple. They bought a house together and started their own business, Image Systems Plus, selling new and remanufactured printers and printer supplies and offering repair services. Denise was a frugal business manager; she did the marketing and accounting; their business prospered and had a loyal customer base. After a long courtship, Denise and Steve confirmed their love by marrying on April 25, 2011.

From her late teens on, Denise struggled with alcohol abuse. She became totally disabled with Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome in 2005. With Steve’s loving help and home health services, she lived at home in Montrose. Her pets, a female dog named Roger and an orange cat named Morris, were important companions; Denise loved and pampered them daily.

After Steve’s death in July 2012, Denise moved to Canyonlands Care Center in Moab. She maintained her curiosity about history and still loved to be read to. Her questions sent the staff at the Care Center on many Google searches. She had a penchant for words, appreciated the “bon mot,” puns and proper English grammar. She never missed Bingo and watched Jeopardy every day. Denise cared about the other residents of the Care Center. She had several special friends who added to the quality of her life.

Denise is survived by her son, Stephen Phillips (Marva), Salt Lake City, and her mother Gayle Loveridge Tangren, Moab. Surviving siblings are Monette Clark, sister, and brothers Russell Tangren (Dianna) and Brent Tangren, all of Moab. She is also survived by four grandchildren: Tyler, Corrine, Jayden, and Zachary Phillips. She is preceded in death by her husband, Steve Merkl; brother, Kay Clair (Kayc) Tangren, and her father Marvin Clair Tangren.

A funeral service was held at Spanish Valley Mortuary on Friday, Dec. 6.

Condolences may be sent to the family at