Lawrence Mitchell Merin, a beloved family man and gifted photographer whose work improved the lives of others, died Wednesday, Nov. 7, at home. He was 61.
Larry was the founder and director of the Vanderbilt Ophthalmic Imaging Center at Vanderbilt University and an assistant professor of ophthalmology. Through the center’s program, Larry and his staff took their cameras to every county in Tennessee, screening indigent and uninsured patients for diabetic retinopathy, a condition that leads to blindness. It was the first fully mobile service of its kind.A Detroit native, Larry developed an early interest in photography, and studied mass communications and photography at Wayne State University, where he earned a baccalaureate with honors. Larry’s career as an ophthalmic photographer and instructor included positions at Sinai Hospital of Detroit, Riverside Community Hospital, Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock.While in Riverside, Larry met and married the love of his life, the former Becky Vazquez. The couple celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary Sept. 4.
Upon joining Vanderbilt in Nashville in 2000, Larry obtained the support and funding to start the Vanderbilt Ophthalmic Imaging Center. A leading expert in his field, he contributed to textbooks and professional journals, and taught courses in the United States as well as in Poland, England, Scotland, Italy, Japan and Singapore. He was a registered biological photographer, a fellow and former president of the Ophthalmic Photographers Society and a fellow of the Institute of Medical Illustrators in London. Other affiliations included the American Academy of Ophthalmology. During his career, he earned numerous certifications and awards. Larry’s photography extended beyond the medical field, and he had several exhibits through the years, including one of Vietnam War protest photos taken when he marched as a protester in Washington. For the bicentennial of his mother’s hometown of Wardsville, Canada, Larry took portraits of every resident for a time capsule
that will be opened in 2110.
A loving father, husband and brother, Larry was devoted to his family. He served on the advisory board of the Choral Arts Link/MET Singers Honor Choir of Metro Nashville Public Schools, and he provided leadership as a committee member for Boy Scout Troop 3 in East Nashville, where his son, David, is an Eagle Scout. He also was a community steering committee member of the Tennessee State University Prostate Cancer Screening Barriers Study; an associate member of Grupo Comunitario Hispano de Tennessee; and an associate member of the Nashville Latino Health Council. He was an avid reader, car enthusiast and model railroader, and he enjoyed chasing steam locomotives. Larry had a lively sense of humor and a passion for social justice, and he was a proud survivor of breast cancer.
Larry was preceded in death by his parents, Anne Gayle and Earl Merin. He is survived by his wife, Rebecca Ruth Merin, daughter, Sydney Rachel Merin, and son, David Alexander Merin, all of Nashville; sister, Elaine Merin Perri of Chicago; mother-in-law and father-in-law Esther and John Cervantes of Riverside, Calif.; three sisters-in-law, Julie (Doug) King, Riverside, Calif., Anna (Mike) Lemos, Venture, Calif., and Debra Vazquez, San Diego, Calif.; and many nieces, nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews.