Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Farewell, Friend

Our condolences to the family and acquaintances of Spokane, WA's first woman tow truck driver, Betsy Merrill, who passed away in mid-February. Merrill, 60, was the owner of Rouse's Towing.

Here's the story on her memorial tribute fromt the

February 26, 2009
Memorial service honors Spokane’s first woman tow
truck driver
Meghann M. Cuniff /
The Spokesman-Review

betsy merrill elizabeth merrill Rouse’s Towing

Tow trucks form a funeral procession heading south on Hamilton Street in
honor of Elizabeth “Betsy” Merrill, February 26.
Thursday was not the
day to call for a tow truck in the Inland Northwest.
Drivers from across
Washington and North Idaho gathered in Spokane to honor an icon in their
industry, ending Elizabeth A. “Betsy” Merrill’s memorial service with a funeral
procession of nearly 70 tow trucks.
Merrill, who owned Rouse’s Towing and
Recovery with her husband, Robin, died last week, five days shy of her 61st
She was the first woman tow truck driver in Spokane and was known
statewide for her dedication and knowledge of the business.
“When she
started, it was because guys told her she couldn’t do it,” said Robin Merrill.
“She had that spunk to her.”
More than 250 people, many wearing coats and
hats from tow businesses across the region, packed the Riplinger Funeral Home
for a service, then 67 tow trucks drove to Rouse’s tow yard on Boone Avenue for
a reception.
It was the first time Rouse’s had closed its 24-hour-a-day,
7-day-a-week operation.
The Merrills bought the tow business in 2003, 26
years after Betsy Merrill was hired as a tow truck driver.
Her love of the
business never seemed out of place for her family.
Her daughters, Melody
Goode and Gwen Druckrey, said being a tow truck driver just seemed fitting for
their strong-willed mother, who’d already worked as a sheriff’s deputy in Pend
Oreille County.
“We lost one of the great women in the industry, and there’s
so few to start with,” Goode said. “It’s still a good ol’ boys club.”
Born in
Chicago, Betsy Merrill moved to Hawaii as a toddler, dropped out of school in
the 8th grade, then moved to Washington with her daughters in 1974 to run a
grocery store in Dalkena.
Merrill’s ex-husband, Ray Bourquin, was a driver
for Rouse’s when the two married, and Betsy used to ride with him on tows.
“She just fell in love with it,” Bourquin said.
The couple left Rouse’s
in the early 1980s to own a long-haul truck, but Merrill returned in 1986, then
hired her ex-husband as a driver about a decade later.
Merrill’s love of
people and desire to help everyone made her a great fit for the job, friends
said. She didn’t hesitate to help stranded motorists find hotels or rent a car,
friends said.
And though she entered the business not knowing anything about
towing, friends said she left it as an expert who knew more about the tow yard
trucks than anyone.
“She was more than happy to help people understand the
business better,” said Cej Florence, a Rouse’s dispatcher. “If most companies
had questions, they’d call her.”
And it wasn’t just colleagues and customers
she helped.
Her employees were her family, and company gatherings her family
“For people like her, it’s more than a business,” said Chuck
Brewster, general manager of Jim’s Northside Towing in Seattle. “The younger
towers, they don’t have that dedication.”
She took her job seriously and
operated her tow yard that way, too.
“I think Rouse’s is really the epitome
of the opposite of how tow truck drivers are portrayed,” said Sean Comfort, 22,
one of Merrill’s 11 grandchildren. “It’s that way because Grandma wanted it
that way.”

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