Merrill O'Grady (1940 - 2014)

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Merrill O'Grady

Holding a coffee cup at Sunshine Donuts, squinting through smoke over a barbecue pit or directing a subject from behind a camera, Merrill O'Grady could be curmudgeonly, but under all that gruff and his omnipresent suspenders was a soft, caring and sharing marshmallow. That's how most will remember Richard Merrill "Rosie" O'Grady, 74, who died Sunday at Eden Valley Care Center in Soledad after declining health.

A native of Salinas, Mr. O'Grady was born on February 11, 1940, to James and Emily "Mickey" O'Grady. He was a member of Sacred Heart Catholic Church and attended Palma High School before graduation from Salinas High School. He worked for 10 years for Mac and Sally Miller at Toys Galore, starting at the age of 17. He then served in the Army reserves and worked at Firestone Tire before he became a photographer for 32 years at Cook's Photography until his retirement.

"It was while working at a wedding, a friend of mine said, 'Doesn't he look like British comedian Benny Hill?'" Maria Harris O'Grady, who married Merrill in 1986. She also worked at Cook's and is well known as a local swimming instructor and lifeguard.

A few will remember a special nickname Mr. O'Grady was given as a child by friend and neighbor Jerry Wilkenson after hearing a song called "Sweet Rosie O'Grady." The name stuck, not only to him but also to his BBQ business at Old Town Deli and wherever he set up his mobile BBQ pit.

Rosie was also the name of his only grandchild for whom he was a caregiver and friend the last two years. He picked her up from preschool, dealt with nap times, played at the park and went on adventures in his truck. Rosie always loved riding in the truck with Grandpa Rosie.

At Sunshine Donuts, Mr. O'Grady sat at the corner table almost every morning and swapped jokes and tales with Hartnell College neighbors. He was also a member of the Salinas Area Modelers for many years.

In addition to his wife and granddaughter, survivors include a daughter, Rachel (Randy) Sparling of San Juan Bautista; a son, Kelly O'Grady of San Francisco; and a sister, Marlene Welcome of Salinas. He was preceded in death by his parents and brother, Martin.

Rosary will be held Thursday, June 26, 2014 at 7:00p.m. at Struve and Laporte Chapel, 41 W. San Luis Street, Salinas, CA. 93901.

Funeral Mass will be held Friday, June 27, 2014 at 10:00a.m. at Sacred Heart Church, 22 Stone Street, Salinas, CA. 93901.

Donation can be made to Eden Valley Care Center, 612 Main Street, Soledad, CA 93960.

Funeral arrangements by Struve and Laporte Funeral Home.

For more information and to share a memory visit


Funeral Home
Struve and Laporte Funeral Chapel
41 West San Luis Salinas, CA 93901
(831) 424-0311
Funeral Home Details
Published in The Salinas Californian from June 25 to June 27, 2014
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