Stephen Ward Merritt
Stephen Ward Merritt
  • December 14, 1947 - December 17, 2017
  • Cary, North Carolina

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Stephen Ward Merritt, 70, of Raleigh passed away Sunday, December 17th, 2017 surrounded by his family and friends.

Steve was born December 14th, 1947 in Rose Hill, North Carolina. He graduated from New Hanover High School in Wilmington in 1966, earning the distinction of Eagle Scout during this time. Steve graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1970.

After one tour in the United States Navy, Steve went to work for the Sea Pines Company in Hilton Head Island, running the aviation assets of the company and managing the Hilton Head Airport. This began Steve's lifelong association with and passion for flight. As an avid aviator, he worked for the North Carolina DOT Aeronautical Division for several years before founding Capital Printing Corporation of Raleigh. Steve served as the lead technical advisor for NCDOT during the centennial celebration of the Wright Brothers First Flight at Kill Devil Hills. Most recently, Steve was the Airport Manager for Franklin County, North Carolina where he promoted the economic development importance of a quality airport for Franklin County.

Steve used aviation as the means through which he gave back to the world. Among other volunteer flight missions, he served as a volunteer coordinator for pilots across America to join together to fly medical supplies into Haiti just days after the earthquake. Steve also founded and was the president of Bahamas Habitat which helped with relief efforts in the Caribbean via the use of private aircraft and volunteer pilots which included, among many other projects, building Zion Children's Home on Current Island, Bahamas to provide a safe home for children in need. He was also founder of the one Eleuthera Foundation. He was also an animal lover, and he was involved in several rescue efforts flying dogs and cats from disaster areas in the Bahamas and Cuba to safety elsewhere. He was very proud to serve on the board of directors of Able Flight, which provides flight and aviation career training to those with disabilities.

As a flight instructor in both regular aircraft and gliders, one of the things Steve loved most was watching the young pilots he had trained take their first solo flights. He was also passionate about introducing Civil Air Patrol cadets to glider flying and training them. Steve was a long time member of Rotary and was a Paul Harris Fellow.

Although he was passionate about flying and volunteerism, Steve valued family first. Whether it was helping his daughter, Sarah, prepare for her next basketball game or helping his son, Holmes, earn his own Eagle Scout, Steve was a devoted father while raising his children along with his loving wife, Jane, with whom he shared 45 years of marriage. He and Jane had the great joy of celebrating the marriages of both Sarah and Holmes during the past year.

Steve was preceded in death by his parents, Eugene Worth Merritt and Rosa Farrior Merritt, of Wilmington. He is survived by his wife, Jane Godwin Merritt; his daughter, Sarah Merritt Ryan and husband, William J. Ryan, of Raleigh; his son, Wellington Holmes Merritt II and wife, Brittany Young Merritt, of Decatur, Georgia; his sister, Sandra Merritt Brown and husband, Larry Richard Brown, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; his brothers, Eugene Worth Merritt, junior and John Douglas Merritt and wife, Felicia Huffman Merritt, all of Wilmington; and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins.

A visitation will be held at Brown-Wynne Funeral Home located at 200 Southeast Maynard Road in Cary from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Thursday, December 21st. A memorial service will be held at First United Methodist Church located at 117 South Academy Street in Cary at 10:00 a.m. on Friday, December 22nd.

The family requests that, in lieu of flowers, memorial contributions be made to Bahamas Habitat (, Able Flight ( or to provide scholarships to train Civil Air Patrol cadets by mailing a check made out to "Steve Merritt Scholarship Fund" to 103 Dumbarton Street Cary, NC 27511.