Merle T. Coughlin

January 23, 2024

Merle Coughlin Obituary

A brilliant light made Heaven even brighter on Tuesday, January 23, 2024, when Merle Coughlin finally received her angel wings, after a lifetime of being a living example of Jesus’ love. Merle passed away peacefully on Tuesday night surrounded by friends and family. Merle’s smile and presence radiated joy and compassion. She lived ‘love’ as a verb and spread her sweet lovingkindness to everyone. She always put the needs of others first, giving all that she had without the expectation of anything in return.

Merle is survived by her sister Gail and husband Frank Nigloschy, sister Carole and husband Bob Young. She is the devoted aunt to her niece’s, Jean and Karen and her nephews; Stephen and Damien. She is the cherished great aunt to Taylor, Rachel, Anna, Matthew, Stephen, Aron, Olivia, and Bodi. Merle is also the devoted friend, surrogate mother, and amazing aunt to the Merryman clan; David, Bruce, Scott, and their entire family. She also leaves behind Peggy O’ Neill, her life-long friend. 

Merle was born, raised and educated in Hartford, CT. She was the daughter of Loretta and Edward Coughlin. From a very young age she had a true love for God, nature, the ocean, and helping others. She was a devout and committed Catholic for all of her life. Her first vocation was as a nun with the Sisters of Mercy where she taught English, History, and Religious Education. Her faith illuminated her life as she poured herself out just as Jesus did in loving service to her family, friends, church, students, co-workers, and community.

After making the difficult decision to leave the convent and take her vocation of lovingkindness into the world as an educator for 45 years. She spent 10 years in the Greater Boston Area teaching. For many years she spent her days as a teacher in Jamaica Plain and Roxbury. Then she held a position as Teacher for the Community Learning Center for many years in Cambridge, Ma. In the evenings, she worked and lived as the Assistant Director (and later the Executive Director) to the Foundation of Hope in Jamaica Plain. At this halfway house, she provided a haven for women working to change their lives for a decade. Merle’s compassionate wisdom and gentle guidance helped many women rebuild and overcome the adversities of life after prison, addiction, and healing from mental health issues. Merle was always supportive and respectful of people from all stations in life.


Merle went on to become the Director of the Adult Learning Center at the Bristol Community College for the next 19 years. As a champion for adult literacy, Merle facilitated countless literary initiatives in Taunton, Attleboro, Fall River and New Bedford. While never backing away from her principles, Merle had a great finesse for crafting solutions to thorny problems. She was instrumental in the founding of the Taunton Literary Council and Family Literacy Project. She established the first regional volunteer corps in Southeast Ma, under the Commonwealth Literacy Corps. She created and was the Director of the Work Place Literacy program, at BCC, for going into the workplace and teaching literacy in over 40 local companies. Her genuine thoughtfulness, humanitarian principles, tenacity, and selfless dedication to promoting lifelong learning, coupled with her depth of empathy, earned her a Special Recognition Award from the MA Coalition of Adult Education in 2000 when she retired. She continued at BCC to be a consultant for adult literacy and workplace education for the next 8 years. She contributed in countless ways to the cause of adult basic education in those 27 years as an outstanding teacher, coordinator, volunteer, trainer, administrator, curriculum developer, and educational writer. Her tireless efforts in adult education greatly enriched thousands of lives in the greater Taunton community.

The primary focus throughout all of Merle’s life was serving the Lord and His people, especially in her loving community of Holy Family Parish in Taunton. She cherished her time in prayer and adoration. She spent much time devoted to prayer and thanksgiving daily. She loved her church community and was highly involved with her parish family. Over the years she served as Eucharistic minister, lector, coordinator of adoration, coordinator of homebound Eucharistic ministry, Bible study teacher and was also on the Parish council and vocation committee. Merle made everything better just by being a part of it. Any soul who needed help, prayer, clothes, a ride, or a volunteer found their prayers answered with help from Merle.

Merle delighted in spending time surrounded by beaches and the ocean. She relished years spent at her vacation home on the Cape in Dennis, MA. She adored time with family and friends, celebrating at parties, chatting, walking outdoors, playing board games with all her nieces and nephews, and she was always game for a crazy Yankee Swap! Merle loved to swim in the Atlantic, hike, cross country ski the Green and White Mountain ranges. She loved to bike, and travel anywhere exciting with her dear friend, Peggy O’Neill. Kindred spirits of adventure and laughter, they traveled all over the US and Ireland on numerous occasions creating wonderful memories.

What distinguished Merle the most in her selfless life of service was her complete purity of heart. She mirrored the love of Jesus, and always walked by faith. She walked that way right up to heaven's pearly gates. She came from the heart in everything she did and would say that she would carry you in her heart. As we both mourn and celebrate her amazing journey on this earth, we will carry her in our hearts forever! And we know that our ‘Merle the Pearl’ will be waiting for us with open arms and a smile when we finally meet her again! Family, friends and all who love Merle are cordially invited to attend the wake and funeral at: Holy Family Parish 372 Middleboro Ave East Taunton, MA 02718 on Saturday, February 3rd from 11-12:30pm Followed by a Mass of Christian Burial at 12:30pm. (508) 824-5707

In lieu of flowers donations in Merle's memory may be made to, Holy Family Parish, 372 Middleboro Ave., East Taunton, MA 02718 or Bristol Community College Adult Literacy Program Donations, Check made out to: Bristol Community College Foundation, memo line: Adult Education Program, in memory of Merle Coughlin, 777 Elsbree St., D109, Fall River, MA 02720 or online at this link:

The funeral mass will also be available via live stream by going directly to the churches website:  ((*Once on the website, you can click on the Facebook icon in the top right corner and click on the live stream video. ( You do not have to be a Facebook member to watch the live stream.))

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Funeral Mass
February 3, 2024

12:30 PM
Holy Family Church (East Taunton)

Please note
Visiting hours will be from 11am. to 12:30pm.

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