Dr. George Grenville Merrill, 96, minister and psychiatrist

November 25, 2005|By JOSH MITCHELL | JOSH MITCHELL,SUN REPORTER

Dr. George Grenville Merrill, an Episcopal minister and physician who for decades had a psychiatric practice in Baltimore, died Tuesday at Keswick Multi-Care Center in North Baltimore. He was 96 and had been suffering from congestive heart failure.

Born in Buffalo, N.Y., and raised in Stockbridge, Mass., he graduated in 1927 from St. Paul's School in Concord, N.H.

He earned a biology degree from Princeton University and a medical degree from Harvard University before marrying Anne Totten in 1939. Shortly thereafter he moved to her family's 200-acre farm in the Baldwin section of Baltimore County and embarked on a medical career that spanned almost half a century.

Dr. Merrill practiced psychiatry in the city from 1950 to 1985, first on East Chase Street, then later on East Eager Street. He specialized in electroshock therapy. Even when the method temporarily fell out of favor, Dr. Merrill remained a steadfast defender of its effectiveness in treating depression and other psychological ailments, said his son, the Rev. George B. Merrill of Ten Hills, pastor of Unity Church for All People in Catonsville.

"He did a lot of pioneering work in electroshock therapy and was kind of ahead of the curve on that," said his son, who has met a number of people whose relatives were treated by his father. "They would express great gratitude and even affection for him because of how he cured their mother or their father or their aunt or their child or somebody in their family. He had tremendous results."

Dr. Merrill also taught at the University of Pennsylvania, the Johns Hopkins University, the University of Maryland, Loyola College and St. Mary's Seminary. He earned a master's degree in education from Loyola College, a master's in theology from St. Mary's Seminary, a doctorate in psychology from Columbia University and a doctorate in ministry from Faith Evangelical Lutheran Seminary in Washington state. In 1990, Loyola College awarded him an honorary doctorate in recognition of his love and pursuit of education.

As a teacher, Dr. Merrill would frequently go straight to class after working on his farm.

"Students of his would laugh because they would say, `I remember your father coming to class with manure on his shoes,'" George Merrill said.

Dr. Merrill, who had about 50 articles published in various medical journals, also did military research in poison-gas warfare for the U.S. Office of Scientific Research from 1942 to 1945.

He retired in 1985 at the age of 75 after knee replacement surgery.

Dr. Merrill, who lived for 40 years on the farm in Baldwin, was divorced from his first wife in 1968. He married Sara Parry five years later, and they lived in Roland Park and later in Monkton.

When he was not at his practice or teaching, Dr. Merrill was a minister, traveling to churches throughout Central Maryland, filling in for other ministers. He was an assistant pastor at a number of churches, including Immanuel Episcopal Church in Glencoe.

Standing 6 feet 6 and weighing 240 pounds, Dr. Merrill had a booming voice and sang in the Handel Choir.

"You could hear him all over the church, this great bass voice," his son said. "If he didn't have a lot of talent, he certainly had volume."

He also had an incredible memory, his son said. Dr. Merrill knew the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer by heart and "became distressed in his older years that he could no longer remember the prayers from the prayer book," he said.

A former college wrestler and member of the crew team, Dr. Merrill liked to keep fit and had a morning routine that involved lifting dumbbells.

Dr. Merrill was also a longtime member of the St. Andrew's Society of Baltimore, which celebrates Scottish heritage. At outings, he would wear full Scottish regalia, including a kilt, and often recited the works of 18th-century poet Robert Burns in a Scottish brogue.

A funeral service will be held at 1 p.m. Tuesday at Immanuel Episcopal Church, 1509 Glencoe Road.

In addition to his wife and son, survivors include three other sons, Michael Merrill of Leicester, N.C.; John Merrill of Catonsville and Thomas Merrill of Kingsville; three daughters, Pepperell Crofoot of Portugal; Susan Merrill Sprague of Stockbridge, Mass., and Margery Cuyler of Dennis, Mass.; 15 grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

josh.mitchell@baltsun.com

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