Merritt George Tritch, co-owner of Tritch Hardware in Eagle Rock, has died. His passing, on Nov. 14 at age 88, is one of those events that give a community pause. His long life was well lived in loving service to family, friends, community and country. It was also so deeply rooted in one place, Eagle Rock, that to look back on his life is to look back on local history.
Merritt was born on Feb. 20, 1930 in South Pasadena, the third of three sons of Stuart and Helen Tritch. The family moved from Pasadena to Eagle Rock in 1934, shortly after the Great Depression forced the closure of a family business in which his father had an interest. That business – the George Tritch Hardware Co.– was founded by Merritt’s great-grandfather in Denver, Colorado in 1859. Merritt’s father, Stuart, opened Tritch Hardware in Eagle Rock in 1945.
In Eagle Rock, the Tritches settled in the house on the corner of Grandola Ave. and Townsend Ave. Merritt attended Dahlia Heights Elementary School and Eagle Rock High School, graduating in the Class of 1948. He was too young to have served in World War II, but his sacrifice was profound. His eldest brother, Stuart, Jr. was killed in action in 1944 in the Philippines. At the time, his other brother, John (Jack), was away at boot camp.
But tragedy is not what Merritt focused on when he told stories of his life. His daughter, Beverly (Bev) Tritch-Allaire, said that Merritt’s stories of growing up were about his adventures exploring Eagle Rock with his brothers and friends, going to the movies and bowling – the game’s popularity grew steadily during the 1930s and 1940s. He would recall baking chocolate cake with his Aunt Marge, his mother’s sister, who came to live with the family after his mother went blind as a young woman – from a condition that is now curable. He had many stories about Tritch family trips to Estes Park, Colorado, to visit his paternal grandmother and about road trips with friends.
A central theme throughout his life was cars. In the family garage, Merritt transformed a 1932 three-window Ford coupe into the roadster of his dreams, racing it at the Salton Sea salt flats and taking it on trips along Route 66. Merritt was a lifelong member of the Trompers of Eagle Rock Car Club, which was established in 1945 to race hot rods and has evolved into a vintage car club today.
Drafted into the Army in 1951, Merritt was sent to Georgia for specialist training before shipping out to Korea where he was in charge of the overnight shift at his camp maintaining military vehicles. A highpoint of his Army experience came early on, in Georgia – and characteristically, involved family and automobiles: His Aunt Helen (his father’s sister) and her husband, U.S. Army Brigadier General Dennis Edward McCunniff, picked him up and squired him around Camp Benning in the general’s car.
After returning from Korea, Merritt rekindled his courtship of Eva Lavina Boyle; they were married in 1954. Merritt also returned to the hardware store, where he had worked since its opening in 1945. He and his brother, Jack, worked side-by-side with their dad, learning the business and how to treat customers, including the art of the handshake deal.
In all, Merritt worked for 71 of his 88 years at Tritch Hardware, taking over ownership with Jack after the death of their father in 1971. Over the years, Merritt had leading roles in the Kiwanis Club and the Eagle Rock Chamber of Commerce, but it is his daily presence at the store up until his death that has defined him in the community. At one point or another, Tritch Hardware seems to have touched the lives of nearly everyone in Eagle Rock, and that means that Merritt Tritch has touched the lives of nearly everyone in Eagle Rock, with his characteristic helpfulness and humor, understanding and problem solving.
Eva died in 1984, leaving Merritt without the love of his life and drawing him even closer to their children. Jack died in 2015. Merritt’s sons, Jeff and Glenn, have carried on the Tritch family hardware tradition, working at the store now for 45 and 16 years, respectively.
In addition to Jeff and his wife Rhonda, Beverly and her husband John, and Glenn, Merritt is survived by six grandchildren, Kenneth Tritch, Stacy Tritch, Ashleigh Cain, Andrew Allaire, Megan Allaire and Michaela Tritch, six great-grandchildren and numerous nieces and nephews. He also leaves behind one very good hardware store.
Author’s note: Merritt Tritch was my uncle. I would like to thank my cousins, Jeff, Beverly and Glenn, for the honor of writing this remembrance.