- Editor's note: This is the first of a multipart series remembering legendary Genevans who died in 2012.
On Jan. 24, 2012, Geneva lost a giant of man in Merritt King.
In so many ways, Merritt was larger than life: a gifted athlete, a legitimate war hero, a seven-term alderman, a 12-year Geneva mayor pro-tem and Geneva's historian emeritus.
He is credited, among so many other achievements, for coming up with the idea for Geneva's historic Third Street gas lamps, for rescuing the historic creche that graces the Geneva History Center and for saving countless lives in 1945, when he and other Seventh Army troops nabbed a convoy in southwestern Germany and uncovered maps that revealed the exact placements of hundreds of thousands of landmines planted in 19 countries all over Europe.
Merritt is remembered in this beautifully-written article by Kurt Wehrmeister and in this wonderful and thorough obituary written by his daughters, Alison and Lesley (Danny) Dimmick, both of Geneva.
I remember Merritt most vividly as a Geneva alderman during the days when I was a reporter and editor for The Geneva Republican. He was a sometimes political opponent of then-Mayor Richard Lewis during a time of fast-paced development and occasional clashes over issues of historic preservation.
He was always nattily dressed, and I remember him as the winner of a silly best-dressed City Council member column I wrote way back when. (Although I might have given the nod to the youthful city attorney, Chuck Radovich, I think Kurt would tell you then and now that Merritt was the winner hands down.)
Merritt always had a kind word and he seemed to me to be a staunch supporter of Geneva downtown businesses, himself the owner of King Heating and Air Conditioning in Geneva.
Later, when I was editor of The Beacon News, Merritt was one of the local veterans who was part of the Honor Flight Chicago that flew to Washington, D.C., to view the WWII Memorial in 2008. Andre Salles, now the media and community relations specialist at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, was the Beacon reporter who flew with those men and recorded their stories in an award-winning series of articles.
I remember being very proud of that story and of Merritt King, in the way he represented Geneva as well as his country.
As Patch editor, I very much enjoyed a Geneva History Center presentation in November 2011, in which Merritt and three other longtime Genevans recalled the community during the 1930s and '40s. Merritt talked about the hobo camp that was located where Dreyden Park is today, and his memories were vivid.
The last time I saw Merritt was at the 2011 creche luncheon at the GHC. He was just as sharp and sharply dressed as ever, and he was the life of the party.
One of the things that strikes me in writing this series is how much we've lost in the passing of folks like Merritt, who remember our hometown's history, lived that history and made this community the place it is today. Like all those who follow in this series, Merritt King was irreplaceable and will be greatly missed.
Geneva Patch editor
Dec. 21, 2012
- Geneva's Legendary Merritt King Dies at 93
- Visitation for Merritt King Will Be Friday at Malone Funeral Home
- In Remembrance: One Genevan's WWII Capture That Saved Countless Lives
- Residents Help in Shaping a Master Plan for Geneva's Downtown
- PHOTO GALLERY: Veterans Day is Special Event in Downtown Geneva
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- Geneva Remembers Those We Lost in 2012