From the American Red Cross to political organizations, Gerald-area resident Alice Merrill has stayed active throughout her life — and still remains so even after turning 100 years old earlier this year.
However, after serving for more than 20 years on the Franklin County Republican Central Committee, she has decided to call it quits.
While she may not be serving as the Lyon Township committeewoman anymore, she said she will likely still attend meetings but have to sit on the opposite side of the room.
“The voting members sit on one side of the room and the others sit on the opposite side,” Merrill explained.
Her last meeting as a voting member took place May 8. New committee members will be elected in August.
Merrill has served as a committeewoman on the county’s Republican committee since around 1990.
While serving on the committee, she has helped numerous candidates and has always told them that knocking on doors is the way to get elected.
Knocking on doors was something she enjoyed doing starting at the age of 17, when her mother asked her to help knock on doors in Clayton to help collect welfare.
As Merrill knocked on doors, she started to meet people and make friends. “I enjoyed talking to people,” she said.
Merrill attended Washington University, where she started getting involved in political organizations on campus.
After graduating, she began working for the Red Cross. While working with that group, she was sent to upper Michigan to reorganize a chapter there, but she mostly worked out of the St. Louis division.
Merrill left the Red Cross in the early 1940s to help her father run a farm in Jefferson County.
She remembers working out on the farm Dec. 7, 1941, during the Pearl Harbor attack and found out about the attack later through the radio.
Her brother and brother-in-law served in the U.S. Navy during World War II.
Merrill was left to oversee the farm herself, but said she didn’t know anything about running a farm.
“You learn real fast, though,” she said.
From the farm, she and her husband, John Cammett Merrill, an engineer who graduated from Yale University, moved to the Washington, D.C., area. The couple lived in Maryland for about 30 years.
It was in the D.C. area “that I thoroughly got involved in politics,” she said.
Merrill was appointed to a political central committee while in Maryland. She also joined the League of Women Voters and the American Association of University Women (AAUW).
She noted that Maryland uses a council management form of government, which means there are no municipal governments in the state, other than Baltimore. She added that in order to get involved in politics locally, she had to participate countywide.
In the 1970s, she and her husband moved out to Franklin County and bought a home in the Gerald area.
After her husband passed away, Merrill wanted to become involved in organizations and was asked to join the county’s Republican Central Committee and was later appointed to the group to serve as a committeewoman for Lyon Township.
While she said serving on the committee is one of the simplest forms of being involved in politics, “it’s still very important.”
“On the committee, you get out and talk to people and understand what they really think,” she said. “If we don’t talk, our message doesn’t get through to say, our U.S. representative.”
Committeemen and -women serve two years in their townships or they can be appointed.
Merrill noted that those who serve on the committee will not usually back candidates until after the primary elections.
While she serves on the Republican committee, during her first presidential election, she actually voted for Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a Democrat.
Merrill said she has noticed over the years that each generation usually has a different motive or opinion when it comes to politics.
Merrill said she enjoyed serving on the committee and one of her major projects for several years was creating the program for the committee’s annual Lincoln Day banquet.
In 2003, she was named the central committee’s Republican of the Year.
At the 2012 banquet held in late March in Washington, a special tribute was made to Merrill.
State Sen. Brian Nieves presented her with a Missouri Senate resolution.
“She’s a long-term fighter,” he said. “We appreciate everything you’ve done.”
U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer said Merrill “sets an example for the rest of us as she continues to be a supporter and works in the (Republican) organization.”
Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder called Merrill “an inspiration to us all.”
Merrill has one son, Robert Merrill, who lives in Colorado. Her son is a lawyer who has expertise in the energy field.