LaMerle Quillian Koehl was born in Pleasanton, Texas, March 2, 1919, Texas Independence Day. True to her birth date, she was a very independent woman. As a teen, LaMerle discovered her love for art, and often drew paper dolls of celebrities for her sister. From 1936 to 1940, LaMerle studied art at Texas Woman's University in Denton. After graduation from college, LaMerle began working as a draftsman at Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio, and also further developed her interest in ballet and tap dancing with lessons at the Bonner Studios. She often danced the "Can Can" in USO shows. While at Kelly AFB, she met Civil Service employee, Robert Koehl. They married in 1944, and LaMerle spent the next few decades helping raise their five children; teaching dance first, then art and social studies in public school; and helping her husband's career as an attorney. One of her noted artistic endeavors in the mid-1940s was designing the plans for Pleasanton’s St. Andrew's Catholic Church after the parish's original building was destroyed by a fire. In 2003, when parishioners planned a major expansion of the church, LaMerle provided her original blueprints for architects.
As their children left home for college and careers, LaMerle devoted more time to art. In the late-1960s, she began producing a prolific amount of watercolors, pastels, pencil sketches and even a few acrylics, though not a favorite medium. She often cited a trip to Europe in 1968 as the inspiration to begin painting again, the first one of Helgoland, Germany. Two more trips to Europe followed as Robert was a tenor soloist with Chorgemeinschaft Texas, a choir that toured Germany and Europe in 1968, 1975 and 1983. LaMerle created numerous paintings from photographs taken on these tours and other travels, as well as family gatherings and school events.
In 1970, LaMerle and other artists in the Pleasanton area formed the Brush Country Art Club, which held several exhibits and contests each year. LaMerle’s paintings won so many times that she finally refused to enter, only exhibit. For the next few years, LaMerle balanced teaching elementary school, attending career events and family functions with creating watercolors and making craft projects. When Robert suffered a massive stroke in Dec. 1983, LaMerle began to give her paintings to their children as gifts, as she had little time to shop for Christmas. That began a tradition which she continued until two years before her death when LaMerle gifted a daughter with the last watercolor painted.
By Jan. 1985, Robert could no longer practice law and retired. LaMerle then had a skylight installed in one room of Robert’s private office located behind their house, converting the room to an art studio. She retired from teaching in May 1985 and devoted the next nine years to caring for Robert and producing a plethora of watercolors, greeting cards, and pencil sketches – many done while waiting in doctors’ offices or watching her favorite PBS shows and baseball games on TV. When Robert entered a nursing facility in 1993, LaMerle began to carry a 5x7 spiral-bound sketchbook everywhere. In it she drew Robert napping, landscapes, pets, illustration ideas, grandchildren and celebrities, like Bob Schieffer. After Robert’s death in 1994, LaMerle continued to paint, illustrate books and create art, completing her last watercolor in 2011. In 2012, LaMerle left her family home to reside in an assisted living facility. Although she could no longer paint, she kept sketching in the little book. Her subjects were other residents, including her brother who also lived there, flowers, performers, and all the fish in the facility’s aquarium. About a year before her death, LaMerle found her shaking hands could not hold a pencil, so she carried the book for comfort, until she gave it to her daughter. After a long and colorful life, LaMerle Quillian Koehl died Feb. 15, 2015, leaving a legacy of family and an immeasurable amount of beauty in her art.