End of an era

Published 11:51 pm Wednesday, May 31, 2006

By By LYDIA GRIMES – Features writer
It is rare now for people to spend their entire professional career at one place - but Ranella Holley Merritt has done just that. She retired recently after having spent the past 39 years teaching at Jefferson Davis Community College.
Merritt has seen the college evolve from a couple of buildings comprising a junior college into the community college it is today.
At first Merritt commuted from her home in Andalusia. JDJC was a small school in those days, comprised of Wallace Hall, Leigh Library, the gym and a student center.
Merritt has seen a lot of changes take place at the college.
In addition to her teaching duties at JD, Merritt also found herself playing the piano for many of the events held at the college.
One of the most successful programs at the college has been the nursing program. It is the biggest recruiter for JDCC. A two-year course will make students RNs, and they can get started earning a salary quicker than at a four-year school.
Although from Andalusia, Merritt is proud of her adopted hometown.
Merritt was born in Andalusia, the only child of a bookkeeper and a first grade school teacher. She was a typical girl growing up in a small town in southern Alabama. She attended schools in the Andalusia school system and graduated from Andalusia High School in 1961. She had a deep interest in music and played the clarinet in the high school band. She held first chair for clarinet for two years and was in the All State Band. She also took piano lessons and was the salutatorian of her class.
She received a full scholarship given her by Hunt's Foods, the owner of Southern Cotton Oil, where her father worked as a bookkeeper.
She chose to attend Huntingdon College in Montgomery and entered the school in the fall of 1961.
She majored in English and minored in music, graduating from Huntingdon in 1965. She then went to the University of Alabama and received her master's degree in 1967.
Merritt saw that Jefferson Davis Junior College was expanding in Brewton and decided to check into getting a job teaching there. She interviewed with former JD president Woodfin Patterson and was offered a job. Merritt took it and has remained at the college ever since.
Most of that time has been spent teaching and advising students, but she did make one contact that she will continue to have after her retirement.
She met Paul Merritt who came into the library one day to do genealogical research and asked her a question. They began to talk and found they had similar interest including the fact they are both big sports fans. Their first date was to see Alabama play Michigan in the Orange Bowl in 1999.
Paul is retired from IBM where he worked as an electrical engineer.
He has traveled all over the world and now calls himself the &#8220airport bum,” hanging out at Brewton Airport. He is working on one of his aircraft, a Rose Parakeet antique bi-wing airplane.
The two were married on April Fool's Day in 2005. Now that she is retiring, they plan to do a lot of traveling.
The Merritts also are interested in history and genealogy. They are very active in the Escambia County Historical Society, where she serves as co-editor of the newsletter and journal.
They love their sports and support all of Jefferson Davis Community College sports and college sports in general.
She attends Aldergate United Methodist Church in Molino, Fla., where she plays the piano and pipe organ. She is a member of First United Methodist Church of Brewton and has played for them also. Paul attends St. Maurice Catholic Church in Brewton.