AUBURNDALE - Joseph Renford Merritt, known more commonly as "Rennie", died Saturday, November 30, 2013 at the age of 91. Rennie, born in Sales City, Georgia moved to Winter Haven in his early childhood, and then to Auburndale in 1939. His parents were Mr. and Mrs. Roscoe Evelyn Merritt.
He attended Auburndale High School and graduated with the class of 1940. Following high school he joined the military and was sent to flight school. After completing his training he served as a fighter pilot in World War II
, flying many missions over Nazi Germany. Following the war he returned to Auburndale and married his wife of nearly 66 years, Carolyn Johnson Merritt. They lived the remainder of their lives in Auburndale in the home they built as newly weds on Lake Ariana. And, there they raised their three children...Joe, Lynn and Beth.
Using his aviation skills, Rennie became a flight Instructor at Bartow Air Base where he taught flying to both U.S. and foreign students during the fifties and sixties. Among his students were several of our illustrious astronauts.
After the closing of the Bartow Air Base, Rennie, changed vocations becoming a salesman with General Portland Cement in Tampa. Rennie's love for flying and commitment to his country led him to serve in the Army
and Air Force Reserves and the National Guard throughout his entire career. He retired from his position as district sales manager with General Portland in 1988.
Following retirement, Rennie enjoyed spending time with his many friends, playing golf and cards, traveling, reading, and being a part of "ye Ancient and Secret Order of Quiet Birdman", a secretive and selective club for male aviators. He was also a long term member of the First United Methodist Church of Auburndale and of the Rotary Club
Rennie died due to a brain hemorrhage following a fall in his home.
He is survived by two daughters Lynn Merritt Berringer and Beth Merritt Nicholson. His son, Joseph R. Merritt, Jr. passed away in 2006.
He is also survived by five grandchildren Joseph R. "Ross" Merritt, Jennifer B. Bishop, Merritt M. Lindstrum, Stephen M. Martin, and Chad M. Berringer, as well as, three great granddaughters.
A Graveside service will be held 10 00 A.M. Thursday, December 5, at the Auburndale Memorial Park, 1889 West Derby Avenue, Auburndale.
Arrangements by Kersey Funeral Home, Auburndale.