CUTLERVILLE, Mich. -- Michael Lee Merriman, 52, was a father, grandfather, and brother. His family tell FOX 17 he was homeless the last 12 years or so, and while he struggled with alcoholism he touched the hearts of many, especially in Cutlerville.
"He was a loving man," said Anna Foster-Smith, ex-wife of Merriman and father of their grown daughter.
“He had a big heart and a lot of people liked him," she said. "He had a lot of friends, and he would do anything for anybody. I just know he would, he'd give a shirt off his back."
Tuesday night before 9 p.m., police say a car hit and killed Merriman as he was crossing Division at 72nd Street.
Wednesday a rose marked the bench where many saw him almost daily, a few blocks down at the 68th and Division bus stop.
“He’s basically a Cutlerville institution, everybody knew him," said John Lombardo, Johnny's Pizza King owner and a friend of Merriman for 25 years. "Everybody talked to him. Everybody loved him.”
Lombardo says he plans to frame Merriman's cardboard sign that he held onto dearly Wednesday afternoon, after it happened to blow into his rental home's yard. Merriman wrote: "Bet you can’t hit me with a Big Mac or a taco," something many passersby came to smile at.
“Selfless," Lombardo said of Merriman. "I mean he couldn’t really work anymore and he had his issues, everybody knows, but he was just a great guy. Always had a great attitude no matter what.”
Earlier Tuesday afternoon, Melissa Deering says he gave Merriman a sheet and blanket for warmth. She says she would regularly say hello, wave, or try to give him food over the past four years since moving to the area.
“I always tried to give to him, a couple dollars, or a dollar meal from McDonald’s," said Deering. "[Tuesday] I gave him a blanket and sheet because it was so cold.”
Years ago Merriman was known as "tire Mike," for the work his family says he was good at and proud of. He worked changing tires at Ralph's Tire, Inc. for several years.
"He had a lot of people that always looked out for him and the community always did that," said Foster-Smith. "I know his daughter’s thankful, and his family is thankful; we appreciate it.”
“There are homeless people on the streets and they’re still people, and they still need love just like anyone else," she said.
Several Cutlerville business owners told FOX 17 they organized Wednesday and will be paying for Merriman's funeral services. They give their condolences to his loved ones and family:
- Extreme Graffix and the Sterk family
- Stehouwer Auto Sales and the Stehouwer and Herb family
- Z&Z Tire and Zandstra family
- Johnny's Pizza King/Sweet Rewards and the Lombardo family
- Niewiek Auto Sales/Hometown Sunoco and the Niewiek family
Family says Merriman will be laid to rest Friday, March 17, from 2 to 4 p.m. at Stroo Funeral Home located at: 1095 68th St. SE in Grand Rapids.
Anyone who would like to attend or share a story about Merriman is welcome. Family also say they do not hold any ill will against the driver involved in this accident; they say that driver is in their thoughts and prayers.
Donations can be made in honor of Merriman to Mel Trotter, or made directly to Merriman's daughter, Jessi Merriman, 21, at Lake Michigan Credit Union for her and her two-year-old daughter Isabella.