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MERRITT NORMA C. MERRITT Bold, beautiful, and feisty, Norma Catherine Merritt departed this life, Friday, July 27, 2018. Norma was the adored and loving wife of Harold William Merritt, Jr., "Bill", who preceded her in death in 1999. Cherished mother of T. Brooke Merritt, who predeceased her, and his wife, Winifred; Mark G. Merritt; Scott W. Merritt; W. Todd Merritt; and Catherine M. Merritt-Hauer and her husband, James. Grandmother of Brent and wife Lacey, Constance, Brenna, Margret, John, Hallie, Emma, and W. Brooke. Great-grandmother of Bronson and Brianna. Aunt to Carl, Jerry and wife Michelle. Also survived by many treasured cousins and their families. Early mother-in-law of Debbie, Melinda, and Elisabeth. Last but not least, will be missed by adoring Dachshunds, Gigi and Pippa. Norma was a firecracker, born July 4, 1926 in Boston, MA, to Maurice F. Brown and Catherine Norma Sinibaldi. She was declared Boston's Healthiest Baby in 1927. An only child, she had fond memories of times in Boston: accompanying Admiral Byrd on dog walks inside Louisburg Square; ice skating in the Public Garden; learning to sail on the Charles River; Trinity Church bell choir; growing up with numerous aunts and uncles, their weddings and families; Wollaston Beach; a pet rooster at Aunt Millie's; the Romani at Salisbury Beach; summer trips to Mt. Washington with her mother and Mr. Biddle; walks to and from Girls Latin School; playing ping pong in the attic at S. Russell St. and launching water balloons behind pedestrians; accompanying her grandfather on his rounds in East Boston with his cart and horse "Joe". In 1940, she moved to Seattle, WA, when her mother, Cathie, married attorney John Stafford Harlow, "Jack". They lived in a unique home off a wooden walkway on East Pine Street. Norma's war-time wooden shoes on the walkway alerted her parents to comings and goings. Unbeknownst to her mother, Norma learned to apply her trademark lipstick on her bus ride to Garfield High. She enjoyed her years in Seattle, riding around in her friend's rumble seat, driving lessons with stepfather Jack on the Seattle hills, skiing and ski trains, Friday Harbor in the San Juan Islands, babysitting for the Nordstrom family, and forming many lifelong friendships. Norma met Bill when he stayed with his father, who had rented a room in the house next door. Norma decided Bill was far too handsome to fix up with her girl-friends, and they began to date. Both took classes at the University of Washington, Norma in Journalism and Bill in Engineering. Before Bill shipped out in 1946 for Operation Crossroads, he and Norma married in San Francisco City Hall with Bill's closest Navy classmates standing in as the wedding party. Norma modeled bridal gowns for I. Magnin. Although a formal wedding was to take place later in Seattle when Bill returned from sea, friends "spilled the beans" that they were already married, and further wedding plans were canceled. Norma and Bill's family of five children arrived in just under seven years. The 1st, 4th and 5th babies were born in California, the 2nd on Guam, and the 3rd in Troy, NY as Bill completed his Master's Degree in Civil Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Tours of duty in Puerto Rico in the mid-to-late 1950s provided amazing memories: the culture, the food, horses for the two eldest boys, Base life at Roosevelt Roads and Old San Juan, swim team, raps on the knuckles from the piano teacher's silk fan, Three Kings Day, El Yunque, the coqui, the flying fish, and drives on narrow mountain roads requiring horn-honking at every sharp turn. The 1960s brought a move to Kensington, MD; an interest in the National Cathedral, its stone work and wondrous choir; fording through Rock Creek Park; a Christmas sleeper train to Iowa; and the beginning of many July 4, birthday celebrations for Norma on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial overlooking the Reflecting Pool. Next came the Indian Head Naval Propellant Plant, where the family built a 14 foot sailboat, tobogganed on the golf course, and continued swim team and Boy Scouts. In 1962, Bill and Norma treated the five children and a nephew to a memorable cross-country trip to the Seattle World's Fair, piled into a VW Bus along with the family dachshund. 1965 brought Bill and Norma's first home purchase in Arlington, VA. The house was within walking distance to the elementary, junior, and senior high schools. Music was always present: classical on the radio, ragtime from Bill on the piano, drums and piano from Brooke, double bass and guitar from Mark, French and natural horn from Scott, and a feigned interest in piano (now regretted) from Todd and Cathy. In 1967 as Bill retired from the Navy and began work in the federal mass transportation field, Norma continued administrative work in various military and government offices, including the Pentagon, Bolling AFB, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of "Woodsy Owl" as an Editorial Assistant. Norma assisted Bill as a "Girl Friday" in his transportation consulting firm TECHNAI International, and accompanied him in work travels nationally, as well as to Europe, Canada, Hong Kong, and several trips to Japan. In a reversal of roles, Bill accompanied Norma to Japan when she was once invited to speak at an International Conference as a representative of the League of Women Voters. Besides her husband, her family, and her dachshunds, Norma had a great number of passions: the dream home built overlooking the Potomac River, with its gorgeous sunsets; tackling environmental issues; testifying at public meetings; reading, grammar, spelling and punctuation (who hasn't been corrected, even in the GW Hospital!); speaking both Spanish and Japanese: making new friends; gardening and garden club; Japanese Ikebana style floral arranging; creation and appreciation of various art mediums including painting, photography, and sculpture (especially her husband's); Cordon Bleu cooking: water activities including rowing, swimming, and even water-tubing in her 80s!; the National Capital Area and Prince George's County League of Women Voters; the Women's Committee of the National Symphony Orchestra; the National Building Museum; the Arlington County Committee of 100; volunteering as a Smithsonian Docent; and the Broad Creek Citizen's Association. She was also active in PTAs, substitute teaching, and the Charles County Children's Aid Society. Bill and Norma were instrumental in helping to develop the Bonsai Museums at the National Arboretum in Washington, DC. She wanted to educate everyone and believed in science and culture, so she subscribed to magazines such as the Smithsonian and National Geographic for herself and for her children and grandchildren. And as if all that weren't enough, Norma continued to give her grandchildren a run for their money at the ping pong table well into her 90s. Her numerous life experiences helped her relate to almost anyone and anything, and she was quite the Renaissance woman of her time! Even in death, she longed to serve others - as she requested, her body was donated to the Anatomical Gift Program of the Uniformed Services University in Bethesda, MD upon her passing. The family thanks the wonderful staff at George Washington University Hospital who were so dedicated to her care, and who were so motivated to care for others. The family also thanks her doctors and staff, locally and at Fort Washington Medical Center, who have been there for her so many times. Special gratitude to Norma's many good friends and neighbors that helped fuel her longevity, and for Maria Garcia's love and care. A memorial reception will be held in the autumn. Interment with her beloved Bill will occur at Arlington Cemetery at a later date. In lieu of flowers, donations in her memory may be made to the League of Women Voters Education Fund, the National Symphony Orchestra, or the Tanta-Cove Garden Club.A memorial reception will be held in the autumn. Interment with her beloved Bill will occur at Arlington Cemetery at a later date. In lieu of flowers, donations in her memory may be made to the League of Women Voters Education Fund, the National Symphony Orchestra, or the Tanta-Cove Garden Club.
Published in The Washington Post on Aug. 12, 2018