A rea­son to re­mem­ber

Ge­orge Mercer re­flects on his wartime ser­vice; life af­ter­wards in Bay Roberts

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY TERRY 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.”

Wartime ser­vice

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.

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