With the passing of Dr. John Merritt, Clinton has lost a dedicated champion and a committed servant of God. Though his mercurial manner and his love of tofu provided grist for endless good-natured amusement, there was much more to Dr. Merritt than his dietary gospel. Just ask the longtime colleagues who traveled from San Francisco and Boston to make testimonies at his memorial service. Just ask my son, Aaron, who aches that his friend, tennis coach, and mentor is no longer available to provide his thoughtful counsel. Just ask childhood friends around town who are hurting that Dr. Merritt’s high-energy presence has left their midst. Just ask any of them. They know. We have lost a good man.
The medical community, here and beyond, benefitted from his knowledge of glaucoma, gleaned from his own research and a whole career of experience. His patients appreciated his caring and his one-on-one focus upon their needs. In my own early years in Clinton, he generously taught me how to do an effective eye exam.
In another area of service, Dr. Merritt was a tireless historian and activist on civil rights. Having come of age before and during the tumultuous sixties, he lived through events that were, and remain, important to tell about. Further, he reminded us that current conditions are not as different as we believe and hope that they are. His intensity may have been intimidating to some, but he spoke the truth with sincerity and forbearance. Those who engaged him and paid attention were well-served.
Aaron, now a college freshman, carries much of Dr. Merritt with him today. While tennis and dietary matters are a small part of that, it is his wisdom on deeper things that has left its indelible mark. When Aaron prepared to leave Dr. Merritt’s house after a visit, John would say, “I love you and I love the Lord.” Indeed.
Paul Edward Viser