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Florida family celebrates late comics fan with quirky Batman obituary

"It was the only time the family was able to laugh in days."


Aja Romano

Internet Culture

Posted on Feb 20, 2015   Updated on May 29, 2021, 11:57 am CDT

Stephen Merrill lost his long struggle with cancer last week, but he left his family smiling along with everyone else in Winter Haven, Fla.

Merrill and his family decided not to focus on the illness that eventually outlasted his fighting spirit. Instead, they opted to honor the whimsical spirit of the lifelong comics fan and Legoland employee: They listed his cause of death as “uppercut from Batman.”

Merrill had been battling cancer since 2013, but his family had no official cause of death. When they were advised they had to have a cause of death for Merrill’s obituary to be published in the Lakeland newspaper The Ledger, the family was stumped.

Tampa Bay’s ABC Action News reported that a family friend, Brandon Moxam, joked they should list the cause as “uppercut from Batman,” and to the surprise of the funeral home and the paper, the family ran with it.

That’s not all they ran with. The family threw a geeky funeral that would make any comics fan smile:

Because of Merrill’s love for comics, his friends and family all wore superhero shirts, there was a Captain America’s shield made from flowers and a quote on the program from one of his favorite movies, The Avengers.

Merrill’s friends and coworkers at The Big Shop in the Legoland theme park also wore ribbons in his honor and made the family a commemorative LEGO sculpture. Merrill’s nickname at the shop was “Bread,” so his coworkers built the family a LEGO slice of bread.

Another friend of the family, Andrew Albreacht, told Action News the paper initially wasn’t going to run the tongue-in-cheek obituary. Albreacht spoke to the paper and persuaded them to run it anyway.

“It was the only time the family was able to laugh in days,” he told Action News. “It made the situation easier to deal with.”

Photo via redraspus/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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*First Published: Feb 20, 2015, 5:36 pm CST