Remembering Chou Chou Merrill

Chou Chou Merrill hadn’t lived in Westport for decades. But today, countless Westporters mourn her death.

The Staples Class of 1970 grad died suddenly in her sleep Saturday night. She was 62 years old.

Thanks to Facebook, thousands of people knew and loved Chou Chou. She created, administered or was an avid contributor to a variety of online communities: “You Know You’re from Westport, CT If …” “Exit 18 – Westport CT Residents and Ex-Residents.” “Save Westport CT From Itself!”

The indomitable Chou Chou Merrill.

The indomitable Chou Chou Merrill.

Not long ago, she founded another group: “Westport CT Artists and Craftsmen.” It was a site for local creative folks to display their works.

That was no casual interest. Her father, Jason Raum, owned an operated “Jewels by Jason” on Main Street for many years. It was upstairs in the handsome stone building next to what is now Tavern on Main, across from Oscar’s.

That Westport connection meant a lot to Chou Chou. So did many other connections. She reveled in her childhood and youth here — the memories she shared, the friendships she nurtured, the opportunities she was given.

Her mother-in-law was Bette Davis. She seldom mentioned it. But not long ago, without saying whose it was, she posted a photo of the actress’ home on Crooked Mile Road. Chou Chou admired it not because of who owned it, but because of how lovely it looked.

As a board member of the Bette Davis Foundation, Chou Chou awarded scholarships to aspiring actors, and other talented students in the entertainment industry.

A couple of days before she died, Chou Chou Merrill (4th from left, black outfit) joined classmates and other longtime Westport friends at Mario's. It was the perfect spot to celebrate "old" Westport, and she highlighted the event on Facebook.

A couple of days before she died, Chou Chou Merrill (4th from left, black outfit) joined classmates and other longtime friends at Mario’s. It was the perfect spot to celebrate “old” Westport, and she highlighted the event on Facebook.

Chou Chou made her mark on her adopted hometown — Brookline, Massachusetts — too. She was a successful real estate broker there, and served on the Town Meeting (the equivalent of our RTM) for over 25 years. She was past co-president of the League of Women Voters Brookline, a member of the Flag Day Parade committee, and a contributor to Little League, the Senior Center, Library and Brookline Community Fund.

Today, many Facebook pages are filled with tributes to Chou Chou. Geoffrey Glaser wrote: “She inspired so much thought with her postings…. She was the glue that held Old Westport together…. She created conversation that introduced us to new friends and reintroduced us to old friends.”

Thanks to Chou Chou Merrill, Westport lives on in words and pictures. Thanks to Facebook — and her thousands of friends and admirers —  she will continue to live too.

42 responses to “Remembering Chou Chou Merrill

  1. Bruce Fernie - SHS 1970

    Chou will be missed by many… she was a very, very special person and my life was better having known her for 45+ years. RIP Chou Chou.

  2. Devastating loss. RIP Chou Chou…

    • Chou Chou built us a legacy, for us the beloved schoolmates of her youth. We must not squander that precious rare gift. There will never be another like what she has wrought on our behalf. Her bright spirit can live on in our hearts as long as we make it so. Any remembrance of her made here in town should not be so much for closure as for a continuance of what she intended for all of us as we flow down that stream of our lives….Peace be with you, David Parnas (“Howlin’ Doc Trulove”)

  3. Karen Huppi Vail

    Nice tribute. All of us Facebook friends were devastated by the news last night. She touched many, many lives.

  4. A Huge Loss….just loved this Woman! She defines Greatness , RIP, sweet friend ..

  5. Kim Englander Leonanrd

    I am devastated to hear about my back yard neighbor, Chou Chou. So many of my childhood memories include her…Many hours of skating and sledding at my house!!Such a special person-she will be missed by all that knew her.

  6. Her love for her hometown was unsurpassed, as exemplified by all that she did on Facebook and her high school class. She indeed touched many lives.

  7. That should read: “for her high school class.”

  8. Eric William Buchroeder 'SHS '70

    Chou Chou was truly one of a kind. We have all lost a dear, dear friend and saying she will be missed just doesn’t do justice to her and to our loss. Deepest condolences to her husband Mike, her sons Cameron and Matt and her brother Warren.

  9. Classy woman, dear friend, committed mother, wife, daughter, citizen, and patriot. She made everything better.

  10. Michael Chuckta

    Chou Chou I remember you back in the early days, I graduated 74, but have memories and from the late 60’s, My parents also had a business for years and knew her parents. It was the past three years I really got to know you from the Staples Westport site, the days hours and hours we spent talking about the things and places concerning Westport as well as the Politics, You had me calling my Mom for any old time information to help with the postings. You will be missed very much and as we SEE THE AMOUNT OF POSTINGS AND MESSAGES SHOWS WHO YOU WERE AS A BEAUTIFUL CARING PERSON. We love you. God Bless.

  11. I am still reeling from this shocking news. A special, special woman who created Westport pages on Facebook & gave me the gift of memories. I was able to fill that void in my soul as she made it possible for me to reconnect with so many people & the town in which I grew up. Thank-you Chou Chou, I will miss you.

    • To you, Kelley, she was even more a special person than to most, if that is possible. I am haunted by the visage of her profile picture that never seemed quite right to me. As if she favored concern for us and our families over revelation of any trouble, pain or threat to her own life. That she made something of a “pilgrimage home to,Westport” only a couple of weeks ago also alerts me that she knew something…when she added me to the group of our town artists my intuition was triggered…something “off” was in the wind….But she never showed a care for anything but all of us…Let the circl close ranks that her efforts not be in vain. “Doc”

  12. Kelley Spearen

    This is a great tribute Dan .. All of us are Shocked , and deeply Saddened over her passing . Lots of us are having a hard time over this , including myself . The world lost a beautiful , caring woman . She will truly be missed . R.I.P Chou Chou

  13. Like everyone else I am stunned and floored by the news. I am a facebook friend and am disappointed I never met her and give her a hug to say thanks. Sigh. Such emptiness. 😦

  14. Nancy Powers Conklin

    This is one of the hardest things I have ever had to absorb. I am having so much trouble accepting this . . .I know most of us are. When a contemporary leaves this world we all become closer to our humanity and temporariness here on earth. All my sympathies go out to her beloved husband and children as well as her brother and sister-in-law. Godspeed, Chou Chou. You will be dearly missed.

  15. Although we both graduated from Staples in 1970, I had never actually met Chou. We traveled in different circles. However, many years later, I got to know Chou from her “You know your from Westport” page. As time went on, I, like so many of you got to know Chou, and corresponded with her on so many different topics. It wasn’t long before it seemed I had always known her. Everyday I looked forward to her postings and read her opinions or her experiences, from politics to recipes. When I read of her passing, it was like a member of my family was gone. This has got to be the worst nightmare her family and friends could experience, and my heart goes out to all of “us”.

    • Wendy Ahrensdorf Powers

      Stu, I, too, never knew Chou at Staples nor did I ever meet her in person all of these many years since graduating in 1969. I ‘met’ her on Facebook and now feel like I have known her forever. Your words so eloquently describe the feelings I have had since reading that posting on Sunday morning saying that she took a nap and never woke up.

      At first I thought it was a spoof – not anything that could be true. But as I read further other people’s posts it became clearly evident that this horrific news was real! Our beloved Chou was gone!

      It hit me like a brick! I, like all of us, had no warning that anything was wrong with her health. She never spoke of anything except her inability to stop smoking and lose weight. But, she never allowed it to consume her. She rallied on always with a smile on her face wanting to do so much for her family, but also for her friends and her beloved Westport.

      But it was Facebook that opened up a world of new friends and new opportunities for Chou to reach out to others as a dear friend, a fellow Westporter, s a supporter of the arts in Westport and an amazing promoter of maintaining social contacts with her own Class of 1970, but also with all people who went to Staples or were from and had a love for Westport. She was an amazing woman who had so much compassion for all people plus a real love of all living things; wildlife, pets, the environment and her incredible garden.

      Chou had an innate talent for interior decorating, party planning and entertaining. She created such a warm and inviting home for her family and her guests. Like I mentioned before – I never met Chou, but I felt like I had known her for years. I had strong hopes of meeting her one day. Now that hope has been dashed and replaced with a large void in my life.

      There is an emptiness I feel that is full of sadness and, quite often, tears. I will miss Chou each and every day. Her posts had become a ritual for me to read. Her warmth was in every word. Her friendship was real and her love for humanity was readily perceived. She cared deeply for others and was the glue that held so many of us together socially. She will be incredibly missed on so many levels.

      May you Rest In Peace Forever and Always Dearest Chou!

  16. I miss you Chou so much, already. I would look forward to your posts of friendship, family, flowers and kindness. We Westporters will always be in your debt for rekindling all of our fondest childhood memories and for getting us back in touch with lost friends. Your family was blessed to have you, as was I. My heart breaks for them for the huge loss that they feel. May you be rejoicing with the angels with your vivacious and contagious heartfelt joy. XO

  17. ENOUGH…

    Today we mourn a loss and celebrate a life.
    Chou Chou’s life.
    And our life with her in it.
    A life overflowing – with enough.
    Yet it leaves us somehow wanting…
    Wanting more.

    Such human entitlement denies us the time that is…
    This moment in time when there is enough love,
    Enough life, enough to sustain us and take us to the next moment.
    I pray we do not use it wanting for more – but instead we use it
    In celebration of a life well lived…
    A journey so worthwhile, that we are far better human beings
    having walked in it with Chou Chou.

    They say it takes a minute to find a friend…
    An hour to love them…
    And an entire life to forget them.
    Well, we will not forget.
    Were we to live forever… we would not forget our friend – Chou Chou Merrill.

    In deepest sympathy to the Merrill and Raum families.

    -Nancy Samuelson Tiemann

  18. Martin Diamond

    Though I’d exchanged comments (as others did) with Chou Chou many times, & only met her (finally) in person at Mario’s, it was like finally seeing an old friend again, being greeted instantly by that smile!! Chou, we had little contact, but you made a BIG impact!!!!

    Will miss you!!!!

  19. Gerry Kuroghlian

    Among the many great students who attended Staples, Chou Chou was a stand out because of her loyalty to and love of her family, friends and town. She was the perpetual old school cheerleader for all that is great about Westport and Westporters. I will miss her terribly.

  20. I never knew Chou Chou from our days in Westport, and only knew here from Facebook. I often discussed Real Estate with her, and how much she enjoyed her home in MA and FL. Though I have not been on Facebook for some time due to being banned, I will always miss the conversations we had there. I never met Chou Chou in person, but feel like we became friends through social media. You will be missed. RIP Chou Chou

  21. I met Chou Chou when my brother Steve was learning to make stained glass ornaments with her lovely Mom Alexis back in the 60’s. I became friends with her younger brother Warren and was so impressed with the movie he was in…We moved to Westport and I lost touch with them over the years until I bumped into Chou Chou on Facebook a couple of years ago. She brought so much joy and many smiles to everyone through her “You Know You Are From Westport” group. We found connection through the fact that my late husband Louis had a Hair Salon upstairs from where her Dad, Jason Raum had his jewelry store “Jewels By Jason”. It turns out that she had lived upstairs for awhile like me . She took great glee in telling me that her parents had “Conceived her in Provincetown” where I lived for many years after leaving Westport 🙂
    Recently she really made my day when she purchased one of my photographs for her home in Maine. It was a real boost to my confidence as an artist.
    I was devastated when I signed on to Facebook yesterday morning to find she had passed away in her sleep the day before, I had just shared memories of her Mother in law’s home with her the day before…
    She was a bright star with a beautiful smile who made the world a better place. Facebook will never be the same without her presence. I am so thankful that I got to share some time with her. It is really great that she got to see friends and visit all her favorite spots in Westport before she left us.

  22. A bright light has gone out of my life and out
    of the world. I have never known anyone with a heart as big as Chou Chou’s. My heart is broken.
    I will miss you every day, Sweetie.
    Yes, even your politics!
    You are SO very loved, and love never dies.
    “Until that day”, Paula

  23. From the obituary notice in the Boston Globe: In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate donations in Chou Chou’s name to a college scholarship fund to be created at Staples High School, Westport, CT. Donations should be mailed to the Chou Chou Merrill Scholarship c/o Merrill & McGeary, 100 State Street, Suite 200, Boston, MA 02109

  24. We are all richer for having known Chou. And for all of its wealth, Westport is profoundly poorer at her passing.

  25. What a SHOCK!! All prayers go out to her family and Chou Chou, you will be very missed. What a loss!!

  26. I don’t remember not knowing Chou Chou. This is just so hard to fathom; someone who was so full of life..and opinions and intense love for her family and friends. It was strong enough, I am sure.. that it will sustain us all. RIP, beautiful.

  27. Steve Rogowskey

    I moved here my senior year and really didn’t know Chou Chou. It’s a shame that someone has to pass away so sudden and do young, especially before you’re children. Rest in peace.

  28. Michael Beecher

    It’s hard to imagine that the death of someone I never met in person could affect me so much, but Chou Chou has been on my mind almost from the moment I read the announcement. At first I thought it was some kind of cruel joke. I’m still hoping that maybe it is. If the way her enthusiasm and spirit came across on Facebook is any indication, Chou must have been a powerhouse in real life. There was a brief period where Chou Chou and I argued about politics and I unfriended her rather than read her political posts. But that unfriending didn’t last long and we both agreed to disagree and focus on one thing we both agreed about: that growing up in Westport was a blessing.

    • Yeah, I almost did the same (unfriending) based on politics, but opted to ignore them and hung in there for her other posts. I never told her as I wanted the bond of her and Westport to not be soiled by politics. I guess we’d all give a lot to disagree or agree with her now. 😦

  29. It soothes my heart and soul some. To read everyone’s posts. Such great writers we have here. I have never been so deepley affected by someone leaving us that I didn’t physically know. That is one of the great things of this new day and age of technology….Facebook especially for me. Chou Chou reached across all states and provinces with her huge light and love and great sense of humor. I could feel how excited she was for Thanksgiving …to spend time with her sons, her family. I totally feel like I knew her forever only because of her deep caring for humanity.

    I always look for the silver linings and what I see from this tragic news is what she created with her love. She created All of us bonded together on Facebook and more.. ..like some of you say here in your great writing…..Suzi creating her gorgeous painting in tribute to Chou Chou…Dan writing this beautiful tribute here with snow coming down…. I’ve cried on and off since I read the news, because she gave me so much. I got pieces of all of you back and I got my Westport back.

    One of my aching yearnings is ALWAYS …do I move back East? My whole family is there just about….my son and I are the only renegades out west here…but it is all so complicated. But I could go back on my Never Neverland Westport Ship of Dreams because Chou Chou showed us so many memories…so many places we use to hang out that are gone now or somewhere else but the photos and the storytelling….priceless.

    I hate it when these awful kinds of things happen and I don’t understand why. I can’t fathom what her beloved’s are feeling right now if I am feeling all of this. I will leave you with one of the great simple quotes from one of our Musical Heroes we grew up rocking and rolling to…..the Beatles. “Love is all there is”. Chou Chou is love eternal.

  30. Dale Nordling

    Chou was a remarkable woman. She truly wanted to like everyone and, even if she disagreed with another’s opinion, she could see beyond the superficial and get to the heart of what made each person good and unique. So many people are saying that she gave of herself to them, listening and offering encouragement and advice in a difficult situation. She gave me that gift also, and she kept the confidences, never sharing what was not hers to share. Chou Chou was highly intelligent, witty, intuitive, careing, and so full of energy and presence that it’s hard to accept that she’s really gone. I miss her greatly.

  31. I live in the UK, and met Chou Chou on Facebook through a mutual friend. I never met her in person, and new that I probably never would, but I always felt safe in the knowledge that she was always there, to have a laugh, a giggle and a chat with.
    She made such a great impact on me, and other friends, just by being Chou….
    I feel quite lost knowing that our paths will never cross again.
    My heart goes out to her family and friends, she will always live on in the hearts of everyone that she touched.
    Rest In Peace Chou, I hope we meet up sometime in the future.
    Goodnight and God Bless

  32. Hey Everybody. I want to thank all of you and especially Dan for this small tribute to my sis. Chou lived for her family, her friends-all of you and Westport. She recently mentioned to me that she was thinking of getting a little place here and said Michael, her husband if any of you don’t know, was good with it. Michael lived on our street in town briefly and that is how they met when Chou was 17;
    and 45 years later they were going strong. Chou was truly a Westport love story on every level. My deepest sadness for my sister was for her to not have another block of years, and be back in Westport with her own house where her and my families could be together more often. My mother, a monstrous Westport fan would have loved nothing more.I really can’t believe she is gone. It is amazing for me to see the flow of comments here, on Facebook and from what my nephews are telling me in non stop calls at the house. I know Chou is deeply touched by all of you.

  33. Like all of you, I too feel a void at the passing of our dear friend Chou Chou. I sat next to her at the gathering at Marios last week–our first and final meeting. She was so thrilled to have her friends together and she got a little choked up and teary eyed for a moment to take it all in. Chou Chou loved her family, friends, and all things Westport with a passion we will never forget.

  34. Christine DiMauro

    I never met Chou in person, we met on FB. She purchased a painting from me, and I wanted to become friends with her. Of course she accepted, and I got to enjoy her daily posts. I looked forward to them, they were always lively, often serious as well as humorous, always informative. I quickly realized she was something special, not your average person. I feel privileged to have known her for the short time that I did.

    What amazes me the most is this sense of emptiness and sadness I feel for the loss of someone I only recently met on FB yet never met in person. The pit I had in my stomach as I read of her passing is something I never would have expected. It’s still there…… I can’t seem to get her off my mind. I know the light in this world is a bit dimmer because of her passing, she was truly a gift. I’m not from Westport, I’m from Long Island, across the pond so to speak. Yet she insisted I post my artwork on her new FB page…..what a truly wonderful woman.

    My heart goes out to Chou ‘ s family, I can only imagine the sense of loss they must be feeling. She touched so many, so deeply…. Rest in peace dear Chou, you made a difference and for that I thank you. I am better for knowing you. You are missed. ♡♡♡♡