Merna Loraine Hays, 91, of Abilene, died Dec. 10, 2020 in Abilene, KS. Mrs. Hays was born April 12, 1929 in Osborne, Kansas, the daughter of Floyd and Lena (William) Roach. She married Willis Hays in July 1947 and focused on raising a family.

Merna worked as head operator and bookkeeper at the Farmers Mutual Telephone Company in Gaylord. She then worked at Anderson Grain in Harlan. She completed her work career after 22 years with the Kirwin-Webster Irrigation District Office in Gaylord, retiring in 1994.

Merna was preceded in death by her parents, her husband Willis, and grandchildren Jon Louis Bigler and Carl Dean Ruhnke.

Survivors include son Kevin Hays, daughters Katherine and Louis Bigler and Susan and Jim Ruhnke, grandchildren Moriah and Keith Graff, Jamie Bigler, Jessie and Jake Lanahan, Sean and Brandee Bigler and Cade, Keegan and Konon Hays and great-grandchildren Kaitlynn and Kylie Bigler, Joshua Lanahan, Chloe Ruhnke and Alisha Graff.

Merna believed in Jesus under the preaching of Thomas Easterly at the Mayflower E.U.B. Church, rural Portis, where she became a member. She is presently a member of the Gaylord Nazarene Church. She graduated from Gaylord High School and was Valedictorian of the class of 1947. In 1978 she studied and received her Geriatric Aide Certification from North Central Kansas Area Vocational Technical School.

Merna and Willie enjoyed vacationing in the Ozarks and were even featured as Season Pass Holders in a Silver Dollar City Brochure. She also enjoyed researching genealogy and the recipe for “faustnuts” a Pennsylvania Dutch doughnut tradition on Shrove Tuesday was published in the Heartland Herald-Echo. She kept this tradition until she was no longer able to make them.

 She was an excellent seamstress, making many matching outfits for her family and also sewing for others. She became a master at crocheting,  photography, gardening and food preservation, and playing the dulcimer.

Funeral services will be held at the graveside at 1 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020 in the Gaylord Cemetery, Gaylord, KS. Visitation will be at the Ryan Mortuary, Salina where friends may call from 4 until 8 p.m. Tuesday.

Memorials may be made to the Gaylord Church of the Nazarene or the charity of the donor’s choice in care of Ryan Mortuary. For more information or to leave condolences go to


Contact Tim Horan at

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