Gail Averill Merritt, a world traveler who once co-owned the historic Sherwood Mansion in Baltimore’s Guilford neighborhood, died of congestive heart failure July 8 at a hospital in Del Mesa, California. The former Guilford resident was 81.
Born in Maesteg in South Wales, she was the daughter of Edward Fitzpatrick, a coal miner, and his wife, Marion, a homemaker.
She attended Welsh schools and moved to London at age 16. She became a fashion model and sold apparel at a women’s shop.
She married Hadyn William Bebb, an oil industry accountant who moved with his family to jobs in Brazil, Nigeria, Beirut, Brussels and Singapore.
“They eventually ended up living in the United States in 1988, the year she divorced my father. She purchased a recreational vehicle in Florida and traveled to New York, then began a solo journey west across the United States. She ended up in Aspen, Colorado,” said her son, Mark Edward Bebb, who lives in Rio de Janeiro.
“That was the start of her very colorful life as she never stopped traveling around the world.”
While in Aspen, she met Baltimore developer and health club owner Leroy Melville Merritt, the chair and founder of Merritt Athletic Clubs and Merritt Properties. They later married.
“They had a colorful life together,” her son said. “They traveled all over the world. She loved visiting the United Kingdom, France and Italy. She had a fantastic life.”
Friends said she was the life of a party.
“She was very charismatic and befriended everyone,” her son said. . “Gail loved her family and was supportive whenever they were in need.“
He said his mother was good at card games.
“She had a love of card games, especially bridge,” he said. “She was a very good player with an almost photographic memory. Gail enjoyed drawing fashion designs and would always make a statement with her wardrobe choices.”
She and her husband resided in Baltimore, where they maintained an active social life until Mr. Merritt died in 2010.
On a rainy May afternoon in 2005, she stood by her husband on Highfield Road as he, a self-described impulsive “house-a-holic,” bid $2.52 million for a house he bought at auction on a whim, The Sun’s news account said.
“The purchase apparently set a Baltimore sales record, and successfully punctuates the end of a long, sluggish ride on the market for one of the city’s most celebrated homes,” said news story said.
“I went there, I liked it, I bought it. I’m very impulsive,” Mr. Merritt said.
The 1925 home was built by John W. Sherwood, who owned a local petroleum distribution and home heating oil firm, and modeled after the Westover mansion in Virginia. It adjoins the gardens Mr. Sherwood established, which remain open to the public.
After Mr. Merritt’s 2010 death, she moved to Carmel, California, because she wanted to find a more temperate climate.
“She enjoyed making new friends there,” her son said.
In addition to her son, survivors include a daughter, Lynda Catherine Charalambides of London; her brother, William Terence Fitzpatrick of Wales; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
Services were private.