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John B. Merryman, horse breeder


Until the moment he died, John B. Merryman conveyed a love of horses and cattle into successful businesses that placed him among the leaders in Maryland's horse racing and agricultural communities.

A former president of the Maryland Horse Breeders' Association, Mr. Merryman was named Maryland Horse Breeder of the Year in 1988 by the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders' Association in Lexington, Ky. In 1991, he was named Agricultural Man of the Year in Baltimore County for his contributions to the cattle business and interest in 4-H clubs.

Mr. Merryman, 70, collapsed and died Saturday morning as he walked out to the barn to look after his horses.

He and his wife, Katharine, operated a 500-acre farm, The Orebanks, near Sparks.

A daughter, Katharine Voss, said her father died either of a heart attack or a stroke.

In thoroughbred breeding, Mr. Merryman's biggest success was producing a filly named Twixt, which at racing retirement was the leading Maryland-bred mare of all time and ranked sixth in the country.

Twixt resulted from the breeding of Eveleen -- a mare purchased by Mr. Merryman for $2,000 at a Timonium Fairgrounds thoroughbred auction -- with Restless Native, a son of champion racehorse Native Dancer.

Mr. Merryman sold a half interest in Twixt to a cousin, Mrs. John B. Franklin, and in her colors Twixt won 18 stakes races and $617,641.

Since then, Mr. Merryman and his wife raised and raced numerous stakes winners such as Pistol White, Smart N' Quick, Due North, Push N Six, Run Spot, Lady Lyndy, Rebuff and Wood Fox.

Mr. Merryman was born in Cockeysville at his family's Gerar Farm, now the site of the Hunt Valley Inn.

He was reared at Mint Meadows Farm on Belfast Road and then purchased The Orebanks when he married the former Katharine Warfield in 1947.

As a youngster, Mr. Merryman expressed an early interest in cattle. He exhibited his first champion Guernsey heifer, Gerar Clara, at the Maryland State Fair when he was 14. At the same time, he foxhunted, participated in horse shows and rode in point-to-point races.

He won the My Lady's Manor timber race in Monkton on Monty R. and was the second generation of his family to ride in the Maryland Hunt Cup. He rode in the race in 1940 and 1941.

Mr. Merryman graduated from Phillips-Andover Academy and attended one year at Cornell University before he enlisted in the Navy in 1942.

He subsequently joined the Marine Corps, where he achieved the rank of 1st lieutenant and served as a fighter pilot stationed in Okinawa during World War II.

When he returned to Maryland, Mr. Merryman took over the family livestock auctioneering business, Louis McLane Merryman & Sons Co., which had been founded in 1925 by his father.

He shortened the name to the Merryman Co. and served as president until the time of his death. He managed nearly every major Guernsey sale in North America, selling dairy cattle in 40 states and Canada.

By 1977, of the 66 Guernsey bulls that had been sold for $10,000 or more in North America, Mr. Merryman had auctioned off 62 of them and sold 86 of the 94 highest-selling Guernsey milk cows.

He was considered one of the world's foremost authorities on Guernsey dairy cattle and exhibited numerous champions at the Maryland State Fair and the National Dairy Show in Waterloo, Iowa.

Mr. Merryman instilled the love of horses and cattle into his six children. All of them joined 4-H clubs and showed dairy cattle, and five of them are professional horse trainers.

Funeral services will be conducted at 1 p.m. tomorrow at the Sherwood Episcopal Church, Sherwood and York Roads, Cockeysville.

Mr. Merryman is survived by his wife, Katharine; four daughters, Katharine Voss of West Friendship, Ann Merryman of Sparks, Elizabeth Hendriks of Unionville, Pa., and Frances Walker of Tucson, Ariz.; two sons, Edwin Merryman of Port Deposit and John Merryman Jr. of Glyndon; a sister, Josephine Merryman Van Ness of Carpintaria, Va.; a brother, Maj. Pitt McLane Merryman of Niceville, Fla; and six grandchildren.

The family suggested donations to the Maryland 4-H Foundation Inc., c/o Maryland 4-H Center, 8020 Greenmead Drive, College Park, Md. 20740-4000.

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