Merry Ann Nehlen Passes Away

Merry Ann Nehlen Passes Away


The West Virginia football family lost one of the classiest women to ever walk through the turnstiles at Mountaineer Field – Merry Ann Nehlen passed away Monday night at the age of 82.

The wife of long-time WVU football coach Don Nehlen, Merry Ann spent 21 years as the first lady of Mountaineer football (1980-2000). She had been ravaged in recent years by the effects of Alzheimer’s.

Born in Canton, Ohio, on Christmas day in 1937, the daughter of Paul and Florence Chopson, Merry Ann met Don when both were in elementary school. They were married in 1958, beginning a partnership that would last over 60 years.

The Nehlen/Hosteler family in 2000

It was a football family from the beginning, starting after Don graduated from Bowling Green, where he had been a quarterback for legendary coach Doyt Perry. From there the Nehlen’s traveled the coaching trail, from Mansfield Senior, Canton South and Canton McKinley high schools and into the college ranks at Cincinnati, Bowling Green, Michigan and ultimately West Virginia.

The Nehlens had two children, Danny and Vicky, and ultimately the entire family became intertwined with Mountaineer football. Danny started out as a student manager for his father’s program in 1981, became the team’s assistant equipment manager in 1986 and ultimately head equipment manager in 1988, a job he has held ever since. In the early ‘80s, Vicky began dating one of her dad’s first WVU quarterbacks, Jeff Hostetler. Eventually they married and after Jeff’s 15-year NFL career ended, settled down permanently in Morgantown with their three sons.

Some of Merry Ann’s grandchildren also became part of West Virginia’s football program. Justin Hostetler was a defensive back for the Mountaineers for two seasons (2006-07), while Ryan Nehlen spent five years as a wide receiver at WVU (2008-12). Ryan also followed his grandfather into coaching. After graduating from WVU in 2012, he spent time on the staffs at Akron, Glenville State, Marshall and Michigan before returning to the Mountaineers last year in the role of offensive analyst.

Merry Ann is survived by her husband, her two children, their spouses (Jeff Hostetler and Jane Nehlen) and five grandchildren – Justin, Jason and Tyler Hosteler, and Ryan Nehlen and Danielle (Nehlen) Bishoff.