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Date(s) - 04/03/2020
12:10 pm - 12:55 pm


How does a kid from Russian-controlled Czechoslovakia become a cruise director for Emerald Waterways’ Danube River boat cruises? First he has to grow up under communism. And then the Berlin Wall needs to come down and the Iron Curtain needs to go up. It’s quite a story, and you don’t need to go Eastern Europe to hear it.

Merle L. Anderson was born and raised in Heartland farm country near Galva, Illinois. He served as an Infantry Drill Sergeant in the U.S. Army Reserve and spent a 37-year career in farm supply and grain marketing cooperatives in both Illinois and Iowa. Merle retired in June 2000 from the (Mississippi) River Valley Cooperative, headquartered in Davenport, Iowa, as its General Manager and CEO. Now residing in nearby Eldridge (though wintering in Tucson), Merle has been a Rotary Club member for 29 years (23 with perfect attendance) and was President of the Rotary Club of North Scott in Davenport. He is a multiple Paul Harris Fellow and a Rotary Major Donor. Merle received the Rotary District 6000 Guardian of Integrity Award in 2013, the Rotary Foundation District Service Award in 2015, and the Rotary International Vocational Service Award in 2017. He is a member of the District 6000 Vocational Training Team Committee, and he does business consulting as a Rotary volunteer 3-4 weeks a year in the Ukraine and neighboring Moldova, or in Uganda, Africa.

Merle and his wife, Mary Lou, have been married 50 years, and they have three adult children in Destin (FL), Chicago, and Dallas plus four grandchildren. They enjoy traveling five to seven months of the year. Their recent travels, in celebration of their 50th wedding anniversary last October, included an Emerald Waterways river-boat cruise of the Danube River from Bucharest, Romania, along Bulgaria’s border, through Serbia, along Croatia’s border, and to Budapest, Hungary.