Clyde Merrill remembered

The late Clyde Merrill (center) said one of his proudest moments was when his son, Glenn (right) became the first full-time chief of the Center Conway Fire Department, taking over from former volunteer chief Ray Leavitt (left) on July 27, 2016. (JAMIE GEMMITI PHOTO)

CONWAY — Clyde Merrill, who served 38 years with the North Conway Fire Department, the last 7½ as chief, will be buried with full department honors on Thursday. Merrill, 91, of North Conway passed away peacefully at home Saturday, with his family by his side.

Funeral services are set for 11 a.m. at the First Church of Christ, Congregational.

“We want to give Clyde the send-off he deserves,” said North Conway Fire Chief Pat Preece. “He and (the late local Realtor) Dick Badger were both icons in this community. It’s a real shame to lose both and on the same day.”

Preece said the department rank and file, as well as from surrounding departments, will march in dress uniform, with a color guard, from the church to Norcross Circle and the fire station, where a large American flag will fly from two fire engines.

Merrill’s casket will be loaded onto Engine 3, the department’s 1937 fire truck, to be transported to the North Conway Cemetery, where a burial service will follow.

Route 16 will be closed from the church to the fire station for about 10 minutes for the procession.

North Conway Fire did a similar tribute when Raymond Lowd, the longest-serving chief in the department’s 100-plus year history, died in 2011.

Preece, who has been chief since 2002 and a member of the department since 1987, called Merrill his mentor.

“Clyde showed me the right way to do things,” Preece said. “He was a very good chief. I know I learned a ton from him.”

Merrill, he said, treated everyone with respect. “That was his personality,” he said. “He was very open and had a willingness to listen.”

He added that Merrill “really encouraged training within the department. I think one of Clyde’s biggest strengths was working with the business owners, that was huge. A lot of time when he did inspections, he wanted them to know he was working with them.

“He was a pretty private man, but he gave an awful lot to our department and this town.”

Firefighting runs in the Merrill family. Clyde’s son, Glenn, was named the first full-time chief of the Center Conway Fire Department in July 2016.

“I think it made Clyde’s day to be able to see Glenn become chief,” Preece said.

“I am very proud of him,” Clyde was quoted as saying the day his son received the chief’s badge. “I think he is going to do a great job for Center Conway.”

“My dad hasn’t given me too much advice, other than to say to stay out of political stuff as much as you can,” said Glenn Merrill, a 1983 Kennett High graduate. “But yeah, growing up, just from my father’s experiences as a firefighter, I learned a lot from him.”

On his last day as chief before retiring in 1993, Clyde Merrill, who served in the Navy during World War II, shared his thoughts with the Sun. Asked what he would miss the most about leaving the department, he laughed and said, “I guess I’ll probably miss riding up and down the streets pushing traffic out of the way with my red lights.”

The worst fire he had to deal with as chief, he said, was “probably the Kearsarge Apartments and the place next to the railroad tracks” on Mechanic Street. Both fires occurred during Merrill’s first couple of weeks at the helm.

“We’ve made some pretty good saves over the years though,” said Merrill, who succeeded Raymond Lowd, who was chief from 1961-85. “There was the Red Jacket, the Gibson Block, Baseball Card Shop, the church fire on Kearsarge Street and the Crown Ridge fire. The department really has done a pretty good job. We really haven’t had a cellar-hole fire for years.”

He said firefighting evolved over four decades.

“The training has gotten better and more sophisticated. Each year, it just seems to improve. I think one of the big changes is the new Class A foam for structure fires (first used by the forest service),” he said.

“The town is getting to be a safer place all the time. There are more and more sprinklers, smoke detectors and alarms in town and that only helps things. I’ve probably said it a thousand times, but smoke detectors are the best things to come along in years.”

Clyde Merrill leaves behind Irene, his wife of 66 years; sister Patricia Irish and brother William Merrill Jr.; two daughters, Nancy France and her husband, Craig, of North Conway and Diane Rechel and husband, David, of Ooltewah, Tenn; two sons, Scott Merrill and wife, Penny, of Conway and Glenn Merrill and wife, Michelle, of Center Conway; six grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.

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