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Merritt Cutten


1917 - 2017 Obituary Condolences Gallery
Merritt Cutten Obituary
Merritt Edward Cutten

May 8, 1917 - September 23, 2017

Merritt E. Cutten, whose sales of electronic components to tech industry manufacturers in the 1950s and 1960s gave him a front row seat to the rise of Silicon Valley's tech boom, died Sept. 23 in Los Altos of cancer. He was 100 years old.
A San Francisco native, he attended Galileo High School and then Stanford University where he earned a degree in electrical engineering in 1939. Last year, he was honored as the oldest alumnus in attendance at the Stanford Cardinal Society luncheon.
Merritt's professional career spanned 55 years. It started after graduation when General Electric recruited him to its New England offices to design motors used in WW II munitions. After the war, he sold GE products from its San Jose location, then switched to represent several companies selling electronic components to companies, including HP. Later in the 1960s, he became a management consultant. In 1981, he worked with Fruehauf in Jacksonville, FL to take to market an advanced oil filter for engines.
Merritt retired twice, first in 1982 and again in 2011 when he was 94, from a Tahoe City-based lighting design business he and his late wife, Betty, started in 1999. Betty focused on the overall design including the lighting fixtures, and Merritt figured out the wiring to make the designs possible. Together, the couple worked on custom designs for several multi-million-dollar homes in the North Lake Tahoe area. They also did commercial projects, including an art gallery, a motel and the street lights for Tahoe City.
In his early years, Merritt was an active member of the Unitarian Church. In high school and college he attended Unitarian youth conferences on Star Island, NH. He was a delegate to a 1937 international Unitarian youth conference in Europe, returning to tell of harrowing experiences in Nazi Germany. It was at a Unitarian event that he met his first wife, Pauline Wood, whom he married in 1940. They had three children.
He met his second wife, Betty Baruch Bancroft, at a GOP event where both were participants. They married in 1957. Merritt added three stepchildren with the marriage.
After his first retirement and 1982 move from Florida to Lake Tahoe, Merritt, already an accomplished snow skier, said the extra time and proximity to the slopes allowed him to "really" learn how to snow ski. He took his last run when he was 89. In addition during the Tahoe years, Merritt served on local government and non-profit boards, including the Alpine Springs County Water District and the Lake Tahoe Ski Club Foundation.
A raconteur with a generous wit and an extraordinary memory, Merritt was a walking repository of the history of San Francisco and the peninsula. As a kid, he swam in the old Sutro Baths near Seal Rock in San Francisco. Playwright Thornton Wilder bought him a beer at a train station on his 1937 trip to Europe. He visited Bill Hewlett's lab at Stanford before he enrolled there. As he approached 100, he said he was in the fourth quarter of life and imagined the commentary he would give in his fifth quarter.
Over a lifetime, he created deep and lasting relationships with people of all ages. At his hundredth birthday party, one of is great grandchildren, telling why he loved his great grandfather said, "You played hide and seek with me. (I was 4 and you were 96.) And I asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up."
Merritt is survived by his son, Merritt B. Cutten (Barbara), daughter, Merlene Davis (Rick), stepson, Bill Bancroft (M'Lou), and stepdaughters, Toni Bancroft and Mary Robins (John). In addition, he is survived by eight grandchildren and six great grandchildren. His wife, Betty, died in 2003 and son, Charlie, in 2004.
Merritt's family thanks the staffs of BridgePoint at Los Altos and Pathways Hospice for their kindness at the end of Merritt's life.
A memorial service will be held at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto on Nov. 18, 2017 at 1pm. In lieu of flowers, the family asks donations be made to Stanford University, KQED in San Francisco, Yosemite Conservancy or The League To Save Lake Tahoe.
Published in San Francisco Chronicle from Oct. 5 to Oct. 8, 2017
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