By Jennifer Becknell
YORK York City Council member Harmon Merritt — a York native and a Cougar football fan who served two different stints on the council — died Wednesday after a battle against pancreatic cancer.
Merritt, 74, served on the York council for four years, from 1998 to 2002, and then again from 2010 to 2013, said York Mayor Eddie Lee. Merritt also was chairman of the council’s finance committee.
“He was calm, steady, reliable and dedicated,” Lee said Wednesday. “He grew up in York, and he knew York and its people well. He enjoyed his service on the council and I enjoyed serving with him.”
Lee said he asked that flags at city buildings be lowered to half-staff Wednesday in memory of Merritt.
Jan Ramsey of York, one of Merritt’s sisters, remembered him as a caring man who stuck up for others. “He was a very compassionate person,” Ramsey said. “He would stick up for the little guy.”
She said he had strong carpentry skills and enjoyed using them to help others. He helped several people build wheelchair ramps, she said, and fixed window panes or helped with plumbing problems when called on.
Ramsey and Merritt lived in homes next to one another on Springdale Drive for about 40 years. “We never have had the first argument in all those years,” Ramsey said. “He would call me at night and say, ‘How about coming out and sitting on the porch for a while?’”
Merritt — a former York High School football player who still regularly attended Cougar games at York Comprehensive High School — had remained physically active.
“He was still splitting and stacking up wood until just a few weeks ago,” Ramsey said. And during a fall trip to the beach, “he was doing back flips off the high diving board.”
On the council, Merritt was concerned about economic development and good financial management. During City Council meetings, he often queried staffers and auditors: “Does the city have money in the bank?”
Said Lee: “It gave him satisfaction to say the city of York had money in the bank.”
Merritt graduated from York High School in 1958. He also graduated from the N.C. School of Textiles in Belmont, N.C. He worked as a supervisor for Celanese in Rock Hill and as personnel manager for TNS Textiles in Blacksburg, Ramsey said.
He worked as maintenance director for York County, she said, and served in the S.C. National Guard. His last job, before retiring in 2000, was maintenance director for the York school district.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Bernice Merritt. He is survived by two daughters and a son.
Bratton Funeral Home is handling arrangements.