Remembering Merritt Rhoad
Merritt Rhoad, who passed away in July at the age of 92, led FOW’s Structures Crew, our longest-running volunteer corps. Setting agendas for and supervising building projects, he was always ready to get to work, while having a great time in the process, and the fruits of his labor with his crew are evident throughout the park. It was Merritt who, recognizing that the crew would be more productive working from one location instead of moving from one temporary space to another, was the catalyst behind the crew securing a dedicated workshop and field staff with their own tools.
Merritt earned a degree in mechanical engineering from Drexel University in 1959. After serving in the Navy, he went to work for Yarnall Waring in Blue Bell, and he later joined IBM, where he spent three decades working primarily as a systems engineer. He retired in 1991 and subsequently tapped retired IBM employees to become FOW volunteers, arranging for their hours to be converted to financial contributions as part of a grant-making program he established. At his funeral, his daughter said she found plans and drawings for projects he wanted to do with his beloved Structures Crew. When not in the Wissahickon, Merritt loved sailing on the Chesapeake Bay and always looked forward to family gatherings with his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
FOW’s 2016 Volunteer of the Year, Merritt’s volunteer work left its mark on the park he loved, but his friendship, kindheartedness, and humor has also left a lasting impression on everyone whose lives he touched. Here are a few of their memories of Merritt:
He was kind, gentle, funny, organized, dedicated, and genuine. He repaired the hole left by Ed Stainton’s death by picking up the hammer and keeping the crew going. His passion and leadership made the crew even stronger. People loved working with him; they loved him and will carry on his legacy.
—Ruffian Tittmann, FOW Executive Director
Merritt was one of a kind. He was kind-hearted, thoughtful, welcoming, and extremely talented. His love of the Wissahickon was rivaled only by the love and respect the Structures Crew had for him. Tuesday mornings simply won’t be the same without him.
—Shawn Green, Director of Field Stewardship, FOW
Once, Merritt reminisced to me that he got that “just-do-it” attitude—which he often espoused—from the Structures Crew founder and FOW past president, Ed Stainton.
—Jim Charnock, FOW Structures Crew Member and Trail Ambassador
Sometimes, during our Tuesday gig, Merritt and I would tease about some oddball scientific trivia. So, when I asked, “Why do the fence posts along Forbidden Drive always lean toward the creek?” Merritt answered, “It’s the Coriolis force effect.” Knowing something about this force, I thought that it was a hysterical answer. Merritt was famous for this kind of “far-out” response.
—John Dixon, FOW Structures Crew Member
Contributions in Merritt’s name may be made to Friends of the Wissahickon.