Less than two weeks after a 29-year-old Howard High School graduate was killed in a truck accident on the Beltway, his friends are selling Christmas trees in Ellicott City in his memory.
Ray Meyer, the accident victim, and Raffaele Mannarelli, his partner at Conceptual Building and Landscape on Frederick Road, had decided to sell Christmas trees to earn holiday cash -- and money for Meyer's unborn child.
They had planned to load the trees on a truck and drive through neighborhoods, knocking on doors and selling the trees -- while dressed as Santa Claus.
But Meyer was killed in a Beltway truck accident Nov. 21. He was buried five days later -- the same day his wife, Mary, gave birth to their son, Ray Jr.
After the accident, Mannarelli had second thoughts about selling the trees.
"Originally, I wanted to cancel it, but it was something he [Meyer] really wanted to do," Mannarelli said. "Ray was my best friend and partner."
Now Meyer's friends are staffing a tree lot at the landscaping firm at 10744 Frederick Road, about a half-mile west of Route 40 and the Kiwanis-Wallas Park.
They say all proceeds from the sales will go to Meyer's wife and son.
At least a dozen family members, co-workers and high school buddies have volunteered their time after work and on weekends.
Brent Stewart, 27, of Ellicott City, says it's the least he can do for his former softball teammate. Stewart will be Santa this weekend.
"Ray deserves it as well as his family," Stewart said. "It's a great cause."
For every tree sold between today and Sunday, the Albright Foundation, a local charitable organization, will donate $20 to the Raymond Michael Meyer Jr. Memorial Fund, Mannarelli said.
The tree lot will be open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
On weekends, Santa will be there with free pizza, provided by Joe Corbi's Pizza. On weekdays, the lot is to be open from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
DTC Mannarelli chose 650 Fraser firs ranging from 4 feet to 11 1/2 feet tall. The prices range from $35 to $100.
The company will deliver the trees free within a 4-mile radius of the business. A fee will be charged for deliveries that are farther away.
A picture of Meyer with a brief obituary written by Mannarelli is posted on the fence surrounding the trees.
Friends and family described Meyer as a goal-oriented man with a million-dollar smile that could brighten anyone's day.
Meyer was killed when his pickup was struck from behind on Interstate 695 by a larger truck and crushed, police said.
Friends say Meyer was on his way to Baltimore to meet his wife for their final Lamaze class.
"He was excited as can be that he was going to be a pop," Mannarelli said.
His mother, Peggy Meyer, called her son a perfectionist and said his goal had been making sure the nursery was just right for the baby.
She said the Christmas tree benefit is a fitting honor for her son, who spent hours listening to "The Night Before Christmas" as a child.
Mary Meyer, who was married to Ray Meyer for 3 1/2 years, said Mannarelli and everyone at the company have been extremely supportive.
"It's like one big family," she said. "They're wonderful."
Several customers have come to the tree lot because they know the Meyer family or Mannarelli.
Customer Erin Quinn said she asked her parents to buy their tree from Mannarelli because she knows Ray Meyer's younger brother, Michael.
That's how many of the almost three-dozen sales so far have come about: friends telling friends.
"I hope a lot of people come and they raise a lot of money," said her mother, Lisa Quinn of Catonsville.
"I usually go to Home Depot. Writing out a check to Conceptual Building Company and the money going to Mary is better."
Pub Date: 12/06/96