Merrill Ludvigson

Born in Downing, WI
Born on Feb 23, 1921
Departed on Mar 29, 2020

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Merrill Talmadge Ludvigson, 99, passed away on March 29, 2020 while in hospice care at Cottage Grove Place in Cedar Rapids. Entombment will take place at Cedar Memorial Park Cemetery in a small private family service which can be streamed online at In compliance with current public health guidelines, a Celebration of Life will be held at a later date. 

Merrill was born in Downing, Wisconsin to Ludvig Leonhard Ludvigson and Tomine Helene “Minnie” (Platson) on February 23, 1921. The family moved to St. Paul when Merrill was very young and he attended school in the area. Merrill met Florence Elizabeth Johnson, the love of his life, on August 22, 1939 on the Capitol Steamer, an excursion boat operating out of St. Paul. He later married “Flo” on July 14, 1942 and never tired of telling the story of how they met (and how he – quite literally – nearly missed the boat as the gangplank was being raised as he ran up).

The couple resided in Minneapolis for several years where Merrill enrolled in an electronics class at a nearby college to study radio technology. He joined the Army Signal Corps to work on a top-secret radio-based ranging system – code named “RADAR”, and was later stationed on Rey Island off the coast of Panama. As Warrant Officer, he was in charge of a classified radar station monitoring the Canal Zone for the duration of the war.

Merrill attended the University of Minnesota and earned a B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering in May 1949. He accepted a job with the Collins Radio Company and moved to Cedar Rapids in July 1949 with his family. He loved his job, his company and had the greatest respect for Arthur Collins, whom he knew well. Merrill stayed with the company for 33 years until his retirement in 1982.

While at Collins, Merrill persuaded the company to bid on a government proposal for a new satellite-based guidance system, which they initially declined to pursue because the specifications were vague and the prospects of winning were slim. He was persuasive and successful, and Collins ultimately won the contract to design, develop and deploy what is now known as the Global Positioning System. Merrill was the first Program Manager for the initiative and was responsible for bringing multiple GPS contracts to Cedar Rapids – generating jobs and facilities for the region and revenue for the company.

Merrill enjoyed travelling with his family to every state except Alaska. He travelled with Flo throughout Britain, Scandinavia, Europe and the Caribbean. Another one of his passions was genealogy; he published five books on the family’s Norwegian, Swedish and Scottish ancestry based on the extensive research he gathered during his many travels.

Merrill and Flo were also active in Sons of Norway and many square-dancing groups.

Merrill is survived by his son, Greg (Laurie Comstock) Ludvigson of Baldwin City, Kansas; his daughter, Janis (Bob) Harrison of Cedar Rapids and by five grandchildren: Nick (Heather) Ludvigson of Santa Rosa, California, Jenny (Brandon) Caswell of Marion, Iowa, Allie (Brett) Syzmoniak of Portland, Oregon, Melanie Harrison (and her fiancé, Anders Johnson) of St. Louis Park, Minnesota and Nicole Harrison of Cedar Rapids), as well as four great grandchildren. Merrill was preceded in death by his wife Flo and his son Donald.

Merrill will be truly missed, and the family would like to extend their sincere thanks and appreciation to the staff of Cottage Grove Place for their kind, competent and loving care of Merrill throughout his residency there.