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Mermis Endowment

Richard A. Mermis, Jr., is a member of a special group, the Kansas Heritage Circle, which is the Kansas Historical Foundation’s bequest recognition society.After Mr. Mermis’ unexpected death in 2006, his will provided the Foundation’s largest gift from an individual.

Mr. Mermis is a descendent of the Pratt family, which established Cottonwood Ranch in Studley. He grew up in Hays and served in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam War and worked for more than 30 years in retail.

His grandparents were “Little” Tom and Elizabeth Mosier Pratt. Tom Pratt had moved from Yorkshire, England, to join his brother, John Fenton, and their father, Abraham, in Sheridan County in 1889. The brothers built a two-room house that became the centerpiece for Cottonwood Ranch. Tom loved gardening and growing houseplants. He and Fenton grew apples, apricots, cherries, raspberries, currants, gooseberries, and grapes. They planted a row of cottonwood trees to help protect the beloved fruit trees, shrubs, and vines. Elizabeth Mosier attended a housewarming at the Pratt ranch and admired Tom’s houseplants. A romance soon developed between Tom and Elizabeth and they were married. The Pratt house featured a rock garden, lily pool, fireplace, and rock collection. Mermis said his grandparents always loved flowers. “Their home and all its surroundings reflected care, attention, and enjoyment,” Mermis said.

“Within that home one always found a hearty welcome.” The Pratts enjoyed donating flowers for weddings and receptions.

Inspired by the story of his grandparents’ love of the ranch and the gardens, Mermis provided a bequest of $850,000 endowment for Cottonwood Ranch State Historic Site. Mermis’ lasting gift will provide funding for landscaping and maintenance into perpetuity.

Find out more about the Kansas Heritage Circle.