Margaret Barbee Merritt of Chapel Hill, N.C., died Feb. 9, 2011, after an extended illness, at Britthaven Nursing Home, at the age of 88. A native of Durham County and a lifelong resident of this area, she was born Margaret Louise Barbee on June 29, 1922. One of six daughters and five sons of the late Ernest Paul Barbee and Pearl Couch Barbee, she grew up part of a large and loving family on a farm in southwestern Durham County. Following graduation from Lowes Grove High School in 1939, where she and her sister Edna captained the girlâ€™s basketball team, she operated a machine at the Liggett-Myers Tobacco Company in Durham for more than 40 years, all while managing a household of a husband and four children, caring for her own parents as their health failed and being an active member of Antioch Baptist Church in Orange County. Margaret did not have the opportunity of a college education, but she loved to read, and she accomplished her goal that all of her children would have the opportunity she missed.
On Oct. 8, 1944, Margaret married Marion Bascum (M.B.) Merritt of Chatham County and they raised a family and lived together in Carrboro, the White Cross Community and Chapel Hill until his death in 1995. Upon Margaretâ€™s retirement, they moved back to White Cross, where they were closer to their friends and the activities of Antioch Baptist Church, including Womenâ€™s Missionary Union, teaching Sunday School, youth and adult ministries and the Orange County Prison Ministry, among others.
Surviving are four sons, two daughters-in-law and four grandchildren: Marion Barbee Merritt of Chapel Hill; Thomas Rodwell Merritt, his wife, Bobbie, and son, Barry, of Winston-Salem, N.C.; Ronald Wayne Merritt, his wife, Patricia Huff, and son, Patrick, of Chapel Hill; and Michael Henry Merritt, his daughter, Erin, and son, Kevin, of Chapel Hill. Also surviving are two sisters, Clara Barbee Riggsbee of Wilmington, N.C., and Edna Barbee Atkins of Durham, and one brother, Herbert Barbee of Durham, as well as sisters-in-law Barbara Barbee of Durham, Estelle Barbee of Carrboro, Frances Merritt Smith of Swansboro, N.C., and Eleanor Merritt Jordan of Richmond, Va. and one brother-in-law, Lloyd Smith of Swansboro. Survivors also include 15 nieces and nine nephews. One of the things all of these people miss in their lives are the large family reunions that Margaret helped organize and execute for both the Barbee and Merritt families for as long as her health allowed.