Wayland shocked by death of athletic patriarch Bill Merchant

Word was received Thursday morningMerchants of the death of Bill Merchant, 55, father of four of Wayland’s finest girls’ athletes and junior varsity basketball coach.

Merchant was killed in a traffic crash in Hopkins Township.

He was killed in a collision between his sport utility and a tanker truck at 134th Avenue and 26th Street.

Michigan State Police from the Wayland post said the semi was eastbound on 134th Avenue and the SUV was traveling west when the SUV crossed the center line.

The driver of the tanker truck was not injured.

Merchant’s eldest daughter, Nicki Cardosa, is assistant coach for the Wayland softball team, which later that day won its state semifinal contest against St. Clair 11-0 to advance to the championship game. His sister-in-law, Cheri Ritz, is the head coach.

Cardosa, Ritz and team members all were notified immediately after the game by officials from the Michigan High School Athletic Association.

The situation was particularly sad and eerie for Ritz, who lost her father, Wayne, in a traffic crash after a basketball game several years ago.

Jessica Merchant, the second eldest of his daughters, was all All-American shortstop for the national champion University of Michigan softball team in 2005. She now is a coach at the University of Minnesota. Younger sister Brittini and Jessica were selected to Miss Softball honors for the entire state. Brittini is coaching at Northwestern University.

Youngest daughter Macy was an outfielder at Central Michigan University and now is a volunteer assistant coach at the University of Minnesota.

Bill Merchant, a Hopkins High School graduate, for the past several years had been junior varsity basketball coach under head coach Mike Hudson.Bill was a graduate of Hopkins High School. He worked for many years at Steelcase and was currently employed at Perrigo

He is survived by daughters Nicole (Nathan) Cardosa, Jessica Merchant (Nicole Myers), Brittini Merchant, and Macy Merchant; his grandchildren: Raegan and Landen Cardosa; his sisters: Sue (Marty) Tourangeau, Lisa (Chris) Taylor, and Keri (Tim) Meyer; several nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles and cousins. He is also survived by his wife Debra Merchant, his sisters-in-law: Cheri Ritz, Melissa (Richard) Ritz-Johnson, and Jennifer Ritz (Angel DeSantis); and mother-in-law Carol Ritz.
He was preceded in death by his parents William and Claudene Merchant and his father-in-law, Wayne Ritz.
Friends may visit with his family from 4 to 8 p.m. Sunday, June 14, at the Wayland Union Fine Arts Center, 870 E. Superior St., Wayland. A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Monday, June 15, at the Fine Arts Center.
Donations in memory of Bill may be made to Wayland Athletic Boosters. Please share memories of Bill with his family at

PHOTO: Bill Merchant surrounds himself with his four very athletic daughters (from left) Jessica, Brittini, Macy and Nicki Cardosa.

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