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Top Brass Recall Merrill's Frankness, 'Can-Do' Spirit

Vice President Dick Cheney, being introduced by Philip Merrill's son-in-law, Paul Williams, remembered Merrill as a diplomat who sometimes lacked diplomacy.
Vice President Dick Cheney, being introduced by Philip Merrill's son-in-law, Paul Williams, remembered Merrill as a diplomat who sometimes lacked diplomacy. (By Robert A. Reeder -- The Washington Post)

Merrill's three children offered a picture of a father full of advice and questions, committed to a close family life that included mandatory dinners together and six-week family vacations.

"My father appeared larger than life to a great degree because my mom stood at his side," said Nancy Merrill, referring to her mother Eleanor's status as Merrill's adviser and business partner.

"He hugged us, kissed us and told us he loved us," daughter Cathy Merrill Williams recalled. Nonetheless, "there was some yelling in our house," she said, recalling an argument with her father over the proper way to tie the Merrilly to the dock at the family's home outside Annapolis. Storming from the house, she returned later to find a note that read in part, "I am sorry, you were right and I was wrong. . . . I'm glad you were strong enough to fight back," she recalled.

Merrill's son, Douglas, recalled long conversations with his father on the chairlift during ski trips. "We never felt our parents were more interested in professional pursuits than in raising their family," he said.

After the service, a Dixieland band played while waiters served the publisher's favorite chocolate chip cookies and ice cream. Attendees expressed regret over Merrill's decision to end his celebrated life.

"I was absolutely shattered," Duberstein said.

"Phil was always an eternal optimist, a can-do person."

News that such a man had killed himself, Duberstein said, "didn't compute."


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