Merton or should I say “Sugar Boy from milk creek corner”, as some of you may know him, was born to Steve and Irene Vele. He is one of nine children. His siblings include six sisters: Virginia, Valleta, Vera, Tina Mae, Vaughn, Betty, and Sue; his brothers are Adrian and Al.
Merton was born in West Allis, Wisconsin. He lived there only a couple of years before his family moved to Red Springs. He attended Kindergarten and First Grade at the Mission School.
After eight years in Red Springs the family moved to the rez. Merton then rode a bus to Elm Grove School, and he recalls Louis Burr being his bus driver. As a child Merton remembers playing ball and visiting his grandparents a lot. After the Stockbridge- Munsee Day School was constructed, Merton finished out his schooling there.
Merton remembers both of his parents as very hard working individuals. He was always close to his sisters and brothers, saying, “We were a happy family.”
At the age of 17 and during the Korean War, Merton and two of his buddies Jimmy Doxtator and Irvin Doxtator enlisted in the Army, “I was happy to go”, says Merton.
After Merton was discharged from the Army he moved to Milwaukee and joined the ironworkers union. Merton continued to live in Milwaukee for the next 10 years.
Later, Merton moved to Chicago, where he continued his iron worker position and joined local 1. Merton married Carol (Ludin). Present at the ceremony were Irvin Doxtator and Vaughn LaBelle.
Together Merton and Carol had five children, all of whom they are extremely proud of: Kimberly, Antionette, Pam, Pat, and Robert. One of the most important things that Merton told his children growing up was “get an education”. Merton explains that his immediate family has the same closeness as his did as a child.
Merton and family moved back to Milwaukee. They remained there for over twenty years. Merton then decided that it was time to retire.
Merton and Carol moved to the rez. They live on MohHeConNuck, in their cabin that used to be reserved for short stays and a break from city life. Merton with the help of family and friends constructed the cabin. “It was a fun time,” Merton says about the time spent working on it. “I’ve always loved it up here.”
Merton and his family are the owners and operators of the Konkapot Lodge. The idea for the lodge came when Merton and his wife began to discuss building a lodge big enough to accommodate their five children and thirteen grandchildren on their visits. From there they were approached then North Star General Manager, John Miller. Miller threw some ideas to them and Merton and Carol went for it.
Merton has been all over. Working in several different places from New York to California and in between. Merton says that he and his family always took yearly trips, loading up in RV’s and following each other to different destinations. “I’m really enjoying the retirement years,” says Merton. Last year Merton and his wife won a trip to the Bahamas from the casino, on their trip Merton went parasailing.
In May Merton is planning on going hunting in Canada with family and friends and in June he’s taking a trip to Hawaii. Of all the places Merton has been there is one place he has yet to cover, (Molly I hope you’re reading this) “I’m still waiting for my Alaskan Cruise.” Merton not only likes to hunt and fish but he also enjoys golfing and taking a chance at the blackjack tables.
When asked what he enjoyed doing in his younger days Merton said, “driving my Model-T”, his wife Carol jokingly adds, yeah driving your car, raising heck and chasing the girls.
When asked what he is most proud of, all joking is put to the side, “I’m very proud of my career as an iron worker and my children and their educations.”