Merlin J. Hoiness, 96, of Harmony, died Thursday, Dec. 19, at Harmony Health Care in Harmony.

He was born Nov. 3, 1917, in Harmony to Edward and Jane Hoiness. He was raised in the Harmony area and attended Harmony High School.

On May 14, 1941, he was united in marriage with Zola Bates at the Methodist church in Decorah.

In 1936, he, along with some of his brothers, worked at the Creamery and Locker Plant that his father started in Harmony. He processed beef and was a buttermaker. In the early 1950s, he developed and sold a frozen food product called "Harmony Brand Pre-cooked Meatballs in Brown Gravy," which he sold to grocery stores and restaurants in southeastern Minnesota. After the creamery was sold, he worked in Harold Johnson's grocery store and his own grocery store until it was sold in 1965. In 1965, he and his friend, Bill Peterson, built and patented a portable ice fishing shelter and convinced the Harmony EDA to build a manufacturing plant. He became a purchasing agent for several years. The ice fishing shelter was manufactured along with other items and evolved into the beginning of HECO, which still operates today. In 1975, he managed the Harmony IGA store with his son, Jim. He retired from the store in 1981 and started Norsland Lefse with the help of his wife, Zola, and son, Phillip. They made and sold Norsland Lefse all over the United States. Norsland was sold and still operates today in Rushford. He then went on to giving Amish tours in the Harmony area. He really enjoyed giving tours to people from around the world, including the King and Queen of Jordan, Helmut Schmidt of West Germany and a prime minister of India. He was also a successful author of "91 Ways to Serve Lefse" which sold over 40,000 copies.

He worked hard to improve his hometown and served his church in various jobs over the years.

He is survived by his wife, Zola; four children, Robert (Sydne) Hoiness of Las Vegas, Kathy Boice of Harmony, Jim (Gayle) Hoiness of Rushford and Phillip (Chris Badger) Hoiness of Harmony; seven grandchildren; four stepgrandchildren; 14 great-grandchildren; sisters, Lillian Turner and Muriel Waage; brother-in-law, Manville (Alta) Bates; and sisters-in-law, Edyth Wood and Helen Scheevel.

He was preceded in death by six brothers, two sisters and a son-in-law, Robert Boice.

A celebration of life service will be held at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 2, at the Harmony United Methodist Church. Visitation will be one hour prior to service.

In lieu of flowers, memorials are preferred to Harmony Heathcare or the Harmony Community Foundation. Condolences may be mailed to Zola Hoiness, c/o Harmony Healthcare; 805 Main Avenue South; Harmony, MN 55939