VARYSBURG — One of Western New York’s oldest and most cherished residents has died.
Florence Merle, the iconic “grand dame” of the state maple syrup industry, died Monday at age 105.
“She is joining Arthur, her husband of 55 years, in Heaven,” her family posted on Facebook. “They worked together raising a family and running a farm. Florence is well known for passing out samples of pure maple syrup at Maple Weekend for the past 25 years. She was a kind, quiet woman of faith who will be greatly missed.”
Mrs. Merle was known to anyone who stopped at Merle Maple Farms on Route 98, especially during the popular Maple Weekend in March.
“A lot of people come simply because they want to meet her,” Dottie Merle said in a 2018 interview.
Unfortunately, Maple Weekend was canceled this year because of the pandemic and the 2019 Maple Weekend was Mrs. Merle’s last.
Mrs. Merle was born in 1914, and ventured into the maple syrup business when she married Arthur Merle in 1940. The Merle family has been operating a maple syrup farm since the late 1800s.
Mrs. Merle was part of the operation for 80 years, although she “retired” in 2018.
“At 103, yes,” she told The Daily News when asked if she was retired. “I don’t want to do anymore, although I’m hoping to go and pass samples.”
And that, she did, pouring syrup for the many well-wishers who arrived at the farm that year.
The news of her passing quickly spread, with hundreds posting condolences and memories on social media.
“I am so sad to hear this,” Kathy Meyers wrote. “What an awesome woman and wonderful life! She was a wonderful 4-H leader and friend to many.”
Her neighbor, Cynthia Weston, said she and her other neighbors cried when they heard.
“She always had a smile and loved her maple heritage on Route 98,” she wrote. “We will miss her come this maple season and other days.”
Funeral arrangements are not complete at this time.