George Merritt found the ocean as a boy and fell in love, then found Levittown as a young man and fell in love again.
Merritt, who worked on the bay as a teen, was among the first people to buy a home in Levittown in the 1950s. He later walked a postal route there, tended to his Cape Cod home, and later became a docent of sorts for the community.
He died April 25 at the Parkview Care and Rehabilitation Center in Massapequa. He was 88.PhotosRecent notable deaths See alsoSee more LI, U.S. obits
Merritt, whose family lived in Woodhaven, Queens, was born at an aunt's house in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn, on April 9, 1927. In the summer, his parents sent him to live with an aunt and uncle, Walter and Kathleen Peters, in Merrick, and there he discovered what would become his lifelong love of Long Island bays.
His uncle fished with the Freeport Boatmen's Association and often took George along on fishing trips or just to drive down to the docks and see what the fishing boats were bringing in.
As a teen, he got a job on a bait dock on Meadow Island, and got to know Robert Doxee, whose family owned the bait dock and a small processing center in Freeport.
"I would row over there occasionally and that was how I met George," Doxee, 84, of Point Lookout, said. "You were marooned on an island, selling killifish and grass shrimp off the dock for bait. George loved it. And for that he got paid $5 a week. He loved the water, loved to fish."
Merritt was short and slight of build in his teens, and may have fibbed to get into the Navy at age 17, just after graduating from Franklin K. Lane High School in Brooklyn in 1945, and just as World War II was winding down, his family said.
"He was small, about 5 feet, 2 inches, and he actually weighed 107 pounds," his daughter Mary Nolan of Merrick said. "He told us when no one was looking, he changed the zero to a one and he got in."
He became a Navy corpsman and served with the Marines at Naval hospitals on the West Coast. He was called back to service during the Korean War and was stationed at St. Albans Naval Hospital in Queens.
During a trip to the Poconos in the 1950s, he spotted Virginia Killorin of Flatbush, Brooklyn. "Across the room, he saw this beautiful girl and thought, 'That's the one for me,' " Nolan said.
The couple was married in 1954 and the next year bought a house in Levittown where they raised four children. She died in 1996. After World War II, Merritt graduated from the American Academy McAllister Institute of Funeral Service in Manhattan and worked as a director at funeral homes in Queens and on Long Island.
But the work depressed him, and his wife urged him to find a new job, Nolan said. "He would come home so sad and she said: 'The money's not worth it. Do something different,' " Nolan said.
He went to work in a post office in Queens, and moved to the Levittown Post Office in the 1960s and worked there as a mail carrier until he retired in 1985.
He was a local officer of the National Association of Letter Carriers, a member of the Wantagh-Levittown Volunteer Ambulance Corps and Levittown's American Legion Post 1711.
He became something of an unofficial mayor of Levittown, a hamlet, and his family said one of his biggest thrills was being at the wheel of the car carrying Levittown builder William J. Levitt along Hempstead Turnpike in a Memorial Day parade.
Merritt also is survived by another daughter, Monica Merritt of Bellmore; two sons, Daniel, of Oyster Bay, and James, of Hempstead, a freelance writer whose work appears frequently in Newsday; a sister, Jane DeVora of Baldwin; and five grandchildren.
The family asked that donations be made to the Town of Hempstead Camp A.N.C.H.O.R. at 630 Lido Blvd., Lido Beach, New York 11561-5297.