- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 22, 2006

More than 1,000 dignitaries, friends and family gathered yesterday to remember publisher and former diplomat Philip Merrill who was described as “loud, proud, in love with his country, focused on excellence in journalism and dedicated” to his family.

Vice President Dick Cheney was the first to praise Mr. Merrill.

“Phil had his opinions, and he was eager to share them,” Mr. Cheney said during the memorial service at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Northwest. “Suddenly, he has to say farewell. … The United States of America will always honor his memory.”

Mr. Merrill, 72, publisher of the Annapolis Capital, five other newspapers and the Washingtonian magazine, disappeared while sailing on the Chesapeake Bay June 10. His body was recovered Monday after an extensive search. Mr. Merrill’s family later said in a statement that Mr. Merrill had killed himself, saying his spirit had “dimmed” since he had heart surgery last year.

Besides a long career in publishing, Mr. Merrill, of Arnold, Md., also served in a number of U.S. government posts in the State and Defense departments. He served as an assistant secretary-general of NATO in Brussels, as special assistant to the deputy secretary of state and as a member of the Department of Defense Policy Board. He also represented the U.S. in negotiations on the Law of the Sea Conference, the International Telecommunications Union and various disarmament and exchange agreements with the Soviet Union.

Mr. Merrill also was appointed to head the Export-Import Bank of the United States by President Bush, serving from 2002 to 2005.

Yesterday, everyone who attended the memorial service agreed that Mr. Merrill was a positive person who spoke his mind and insisted on positive reports and actions. He also enjoyed boating, skiing, being with his family and taking vacations.

“He was often difficult, but beautiful indeed,” University of Maryland President C.D. Mote Jr. said, praising a $10 million grant Mr. Merrill contributed to the school’s journalism school.

“We always agreed. He talked. I listened,” Mr. Mote joked.

“All of his life, Phil always demonstrated his ability to get the job done,” said R. James Woolsey Jr., former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, citing Mr. Merrill’s fascination with boating. “He became what he was, a skipper with a great heart.”

Washingtonian Editor John A. Limpert said Mr. Merrill was energetic, recalling how he tried to keep up as Mr. Merrill walked down the street.

Mr. Merrill’s daughter Nancy Merrill recalled how she often played at the newspaper while her father wrote and edited stories and that she would end up covered with ink when they went home for a late supper.

“He rarely made a decision without consulting with my mother,” daughter Catherine Merrill Williams said. “He had interests in absolutely everything. … Six-week vacations were not unusual.”

Mr. Merrill’s son, Douglas Merrill, said his father was “focused on excellence in journalism,” but “we never felt our parents were more devoted to their business than they were to their family.”

Among those attending the memorial were former U.S. Sen. Joseph D. Tydings, former U.S. Rep. Charles Thomas McMillen and Montgomery County State’s Attorney Douglas F. Gansler.

Chocolate chip cookies and ice cream were favorites of Mr. Merrill’s and the snacks were served to everyone who attended the service.

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