A reason to remember
George Mercer reflects on his wartime service; life afterwards in Bay Roberts
George Mercer sits on the sofa in his Bay Roberts home, peering out his living room window at the steady flow of traffic making its way along the Conception Bay Highway.
His modest home is located in the heart of the town’s commercial centre, and from his perch, he sees it all. He’s watched as a multimillion-dollar sewer infrastructure project has taken place over the past two years, and he’s been witness to the many changes along what’s been dubbed the town’s “Golden Mile.”
It’s certainly not the undeveloped and unsophisticated town he remembers when he returned from the Second World War in the 1940s, or the ill-equipped and underserviced town he led as mayor beginning in 1973.
“It’s a fine town, don’t you think?” he states during a recent interview.
The 91-year-old is in high spirits on this day, happy to share some memories of a full life that started on Barracks Road in Bay Roberts. With Phyllis, his wife of 67 years, and son Neil, sitting nearby, Mercer speaks of close calls during his service with the Royal Navy, his efforts to earn a livelihood and raise a family after being discharged from the service, and a distinguished record of community involvement.
He reflects with sadness on the friends he lost during the war, his pride at giving up drinking and smoking some three decades ago, and his frustration at not being able to get around like he used to.
But not once during more than an hour of reminiscing does he offer a complaint or a regret.
He prefers to talk about his healthy appetite, his peaceful sleeps and the enjoyable walks he takes to the nearby shopping centre.
“I’m not one to dwell on things,” he says. “I lived alright.”
Mercer and his childhood friend, John Harris of Bay Roberts East, enlisted in the Royal Navy in February 1940. The Second World War was heating up, with the Germans tightening its grip on much of Europe, and causing havoc among Allied shipping in the North Atlantic. • — Thomas George Mercer • — turns 92 on Jan. 11 • — Bay Roberts • — Bay Roberts • — retired businessman, former mayor of the Town of Bay Roberts (1973-81), and veteran of the Second World War (Royal Navy) • — Alexander and Alfreda Mercer, who lived on Barracks Road. One of seven children. • — married Phyllis (French) Mercer on March 8, 1944. They have five children: Shirley, Calvin, Neil, Sandra and Philip; six grandchildren and two great- grandchilren • — Mercer’s father served in the First World War; his uncle, John B. Mercer, was killed in the war; brother Harry Mercer (deceased) served in an artillery regiment during the Second World War; youngest brother Ralph Mercer served as a military policeman in post-war Germany. • — was a crewmember on the Royal Navy battleship HMS Rodney during the famous engagement that resulted in the sinking of the German battleship Bismarck in May 1941. The Bismarck had earlier sunk the prestigious British battlecruiser HMS Hood, killing all but three of her 1,418 crew.
George Mercer is a Second World War veteran and former Bay Roberts mayor.