"Extraordinary’ legacy: Scholarship honours vet and humanitarian Dr. Ron Mergl 
Inoculating hyenas in Africa against rabies, combating polio in slums of India among lifetime of helping others.

Whether it was compassionate care for someone’s beloved dog or cat at the local veterinary clinics he ran with his wife and fellow veterinarian June or travelling to Africa to vaccinate hyenas against rabies to save the lives of children, Dr. Ron Mergl did what it took to make this rock we live on a better place.

Now a local service club that he devoted countless hours of service to over decades has launched a new scholarship in memory of the Fenwick veterinarian who died in July 2020 at age 61 after dealing with an aggressive brain tumour.

The Niagara Falls Rotary Club Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the local Rotary Club that Mergl was a 33-year member and past-president of, announced the launch of the new Dr. Ron Mergl Memorial Scholarship for Niagara Falls students.

Tuition of up to $5,000 will be presented annually to one student who is pursuing a full-time university science, agricultural, animal, pre-vet or pre-med program. In addition to having moderate to high academic achievements, applicants will have to demonstrate volunteerism at the local or global level, the service club said.

To Dr. June Mergl, that’s a fitting reflection of Ron’s legacy.

“Ron didn’t like to draw attention to himself,” she said. “Ron would be embarrassed but he would also love it: he was very passionate about kids and the sciences and helping others.”

Ron, along with June, operated the Niagara Falls Animal Medical Centre and Virgil Animal Hospital. But the couple also found time to travel to far-flung corners of the world to help those in need.

Along with June, he travelled to Malawi, Africa for Veterinarians Without Borders to vaccinate hyenas and dogs against rabies, a disease that was killing local children. He also started a program of education and vaccination against rabies in Uganda, saving untold numbers of children’s lives.

“That really bothered him,” June said of the toll of rabies on children in those countries. “It’s so preventable.”

Ron also travelled to slums in New Delhi and elsewhere in India and to Benin, Africa, paying his own way to take part in month-long Rotary International polio immunization expeditions.

“He was flabbergasted to see these children crippled from polio,” said June.

“But he was in his element,” she said. “He absolutely loved it. It was incredible to see Rotary in action.”

Ron realized his dream of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro with family members in 2012, donating proceeds to a Tanzanian orphanage. He also purchased Spanish children's books and hauled them to an elementary school in an impoverished village in Nicaragua, and travelled to Guatemala to combat West Nile virus in kids.

In 2014, he received the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association Award of Merit for his work in veterinary medicine and humanitarian projects locally and around the world.

June said she only learned of some of his philanthropic efforts after seeing files following his death.

“The waves he made reverberated,” she said. “I don’t know how he did it all.”

Monika Seymour, secretary of the Rotary Club of Niagara Falls board, said the club felt compelled to honour Ron’s benevolent service to others.

“He was extraordinary within our club in terms of his selflessness and dedication to making our world a better place,” she said. “Our club has benefited greatly from numerous generous and special members over the years, but Ron was unique.”

June said the Rotary Club scholarship helps to highlight a lifetime of service.

“It’s a great honour and I’m really touched the Rotary Club is doing it,” she said. “It really does keep his memory alive.”