John Langan Merchant was an adventurous, loving Renaissance man. A creative force with boundless energy and a wonderfully dry sense of humor, he had a generous spirit that touched all who knew him.
His extraordinary life began on March 10, 1944 in Sacramento and ended on January 14, 2020 in San Francisco. In his 75 eventful years, John’s path included serving in the Vietnam War, where he earned a Purple Heart; becoming a husband, father and grandfather; and co-creating Indian Springs, one of the most iconic resorts in the Napa Valley.
John, along with his three sisters, spent his formative years in Yakima, Washington. He made lifelong friends there and briefly joined the Jesuit seminary after high school. Becoming a Jesuit brother, however, was not in the cards, and seeking adventure, John joined the military. He served honorably as an intelligence officer in Vietnam before suffering severe injuries from a grenade explosion.
In San Francisco, John recovered at Letterman Hospital before completing the remaining months of his service commitment. He then obtained a degree in biology at USF, with the hope of becoming a doctor. Pursuing this goal, he attended medical school in Liege, Belgium. Returning to San Francisco, John supported himself as an ambulance driver. It was during this time that a friend encouraged him to invest in real estate. Borrowing a small amount of money from his mother, he purchased his first property. From that point on, one of his ongoing passions was real estate investment.
It was also in San Francisco that John met his future wife, Patricia, a kindred spirit (and a spirited match). Together, they created a rich, experiential life for their family. John loved being a father and raised his three children in his own eclectic way. Erin, Ryan and Danny were at the center of his life and a part of countless adventures, including round-the-world trips, living abroad in Spain and France, African safaris, and yearly scuba diving trips to Mexico. John was proud of each of them and reveled in their accomplishments and successes. In turn, how John lived his life to the fullest while providing for his family set a lasting, invaluable example for his children.
John continued to grow his real estate investment business before discovering a gem in Calistoga. When an historic but somewhat distressed resort property came up for sale, he fearlessly purchased it. Over many years, John’s energy and vision helped transform the property into the Indian Springs of today. The resort was also an emotional investment for John; he never tired of seeing and hearing how much people enjoyed being there.
In addition to his business acumen, John had a constant desire to create beauty around him. It was an important element in his business projects and a key interest personally. With a great appreciation of art, John’s adventures took him to many of the world’s major museums and galleries. Not content to be a passive “consumer,” John drew and painted after taking classes in Paris and the Bay Area. He championed local artists and collected a variety of artwork.
John had a curious mind and a continual need to seek out new experiences and share them with family and friends. He dreamed big and his enthusiasm for life and ideas encouraged others to do the same. John believed strongly in the benefits of real estate investment, always encouraging others to try their hand at it. As many of his friends have said, it was one of John’s ongoing themes, and he frequently handed out books on the subject to friends and strangers alike. Motivated by a desire to lift others up, he generously offered a helping hand whenever needed.
With his zest for life, John was the focal point of many indelible memories and amusing stories. He could rap on nearly any subject—and did so often. He explored local farmers markets, the flea markets of Paris, and much of New York City with equal enthusiasm. An independent thinker, John read constantly on a wide range of topics. He savored a good steak or a plateau de fruits de mer, as well as the occasional after-dinner cigar. John valued his diverse, extensive circle of friends, many of whom he had known for decades. Although he enjoyed a crowd, he loved having one-on-one conversations, always deeply interested in other people’s lives.
John leaves his beloved wife and partner, Pat Merchant, his daughter and son-in-law, Erin and Tom Furtney, his son Ryan Merchant, and his son and daughter-in-law, Danny and Jackie Merchant. He also leaves his adored grandchildren: Fiona, Ford, Audrey and John Ryan Furtney, and Oliver Merchant. John leaves his sister, Judy Neid, her family, and the families of his two other sisters, Mary and Peggy.
John’s family has been touched by the many heartfelt messages they have received and would like to thank everyone who has reached out to them.
A celebration of John’s life is planned for February 15 at 1:00 p.m. at Indian Springs, Calistoga.
Assisted by Monte’s Chapel of the Hills, San Anselmo, CA.
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