A final, fitting farewell to George Mercer

Terry Roberts
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Well-known civic leader, businessman, war veteran laid to rest in Bay Roberts

George Mercer was eulogized with heartfelt tributes, stirring gospel songs and a final salute from his comrades with the Royal Canadian Legion during a poignant funeral service in Bay Roberts today (March 3).

A picturesque winter scene outside the windows of Grace United Church provided a tranquil backdrop as one of the town’s most prominent citizens was remembered by dozens of family members, friends and civic leaders.

Mercer passed away on Thursday, Feb. 27. He was 94.

With his casket draped in the Union Jack, the national flag of the United Kingdom, Mercer was fondly remembered for his generosity, dedication to his family and his community, and his selfless sacrifice while serving in the Royal Navy during the Second World War.

He was also praised for his success in business as the longtime owner/operator of a service station in the town, and his time as mayor of Bay Roberts (1973-81).

It was said he would often work late hours in order to repair a vehicle because he was “very sensitive to the needs of his customer.” And as mayor, the town “prospered” under his leadership.

And he never lost his connection to the military, having once served as president of Branch 32 of the Royal Canadian Legion, and was a district commander.

Some 15-plus Legionnaires from branches in Bay Roberts and Spaniard’s Bay paid their final respects by circling the casket, reading a tribute, and saluting their comrade. They also placed poppies of remembrance on the casket.

Following the playing of the Last Post and a moment of silence, Ross Petten, president of Provincial Command of the Royal Canadian Legion, presented the folded Union Jack to Mercer’s grieving widow and wife of 70 years, Phyllis (French).

“To be able to do that and show our gratitude … was an unbelievable feeling. I was honoured and proud to be able to do that today,” Petten said following the funeral.

Petten described Mercer as a “personal friend,” and recalled the many visits he made to Mercer’s home in recent years.

“He was a very kind man. A very good man,” said Petten.

Sadly, Mercer’s passing further shrinks the ranks of living veterans of the Second World War.

In the Conception Bay North region, Petten said you can “count on your fingers” the number of surviving veterans.

One of those, John Pauls, who served in the Merchant Marine, was on hand for Mercer’s funeral.

Petten said it’s the gradual ending of an era as the last of these brave men and women pass on.

“They fought for our freedom and we owe them a debt of gratitude,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mercer’s wartime service was anything but ordinary.

He was a crewmember on board the HMS Rodney, a Royal Navy ship, during the famous battle that included the sinking of the vaunted German ship, Bismark, in the spring of 1941.

He was medically discharged prior to the end of hostilities, and returned to Bay Roberts.

George and Phyllis were married March 8, 1944, and raised five children.

His granddaughter, Deanne Mercer, paid tribute to a man she described as a role model.

“He was very important in my life; someone I looked up to. I could always call on him,” she said.

Mercer’s strong legacy will live on in his family, and in the contributions he made to his town, province and country.

Several years ago, the street that runs next to his home was renamed “George Mercer Drive.”

Bay Roberts Mayor Philip Wood said it was a fitting gesture.

“He certainly did a lot of service for all,” Wood stated as he walked from the church to the cemetery.

Wood said some of his earliest memories of George Mercer go back to his boyhood days. Wood’s father, the late Eric Wood, and Mercer developed a friendship through their involvement with the Legion. Eric Wood was also a veteran of the Second World War, having served an in artillery unit.

 “They were always friends, but they did not speak a lot about their experiences,” Mayor Wood said of his father and George Mercer.

People like George Mercer and Eric Wood lived through a very turbulent time in world history, and deserve to be honoured and remembered, said the mayor.

”(George) cared a great deal about his province, his country and his town,” said Mayor Wood. “He was a wonderful and gentle man.”

editor@cbncompass.ca

Organizations: Union Jack, Royal Navy, Grace United Church Royal Canadian Legion

Geographic location: Bay Roberts, United Kingdom, Conception Bay North

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  • Linda Timperley (Read)
    March 04, 2014 - 18:53

    A very beautiful tribute to my Uncle George. Thoughts are with Aunt Phyllis and the rest of the Mercer family. Love Linda (Daughter of Florence Read (Mercer)

  • David Flannigan
    March 04, 2014 - 11:47

    As Dominion Vice President of the Royal Canadian Legion, i wish to extend my sincere condolences to the Mercer Family. The Royal Canadian Legion and the Public as a whole have lost another one of our hero's. Thank you Comrade Mercer for our freedom.