THE SECOND WIFE OF RICHARD MERRICK

The first marriage of Richard Merrick, artist and younger brother of George E. Merrick, to Marion Wallace, when he was 29 and she 22, was brief, childless and uneventful. However, the circumstances leading up to his second marriage were neither brief or uneventful. Merrick had been single for 14 years, when in 1949 he wed Mrs. Myra Baseman Anderson, a Coral Gables socialite and pioneer resident of Miami. She had been widowed for less than two years – but she and Merrick had known each other, quite well actually, for several years.

Myra Louise Baseman was born in Gary, Maryland September 9, 1889, the eldest child of Ernest & Minnie Young Baseman, both Maryland natives. On Christmas Day, 1911, Myra married Howard Reade Anderson, in Wentworth, Hamilton, Ontario. He was 13 years her senior, born in Gaines, NY in 1876, and had lived in Albion, which adjoined Gaines, NY his entire life.

While Myra’s obituary stated she and Howard came to the Miami area in 1917, the 1920 census shows the couple living in Gaines, NY.  Howard’s obituary states he had been a resident of Miami since 1913, moving here from Gaines. The couple may have wintered in Miami, but apparently did not move here permanently until sometime shortly after 1920.

The couple settled in Coral Gables, where Howard was a special agent for the Union Central Insurance Company. According to his obituary, “During early development of Greater Miami, he was closely associated with George E. Merrick in several enterprises”.  Merrick first started developing real estate in earnest as early as 1915.   Myra was a founding member of the Coral Gables Women’s Club, established in 1923, a member of the Coral Gables Garden Club and of the Junior Matron’s Society of the Coral Gables Congregational Church. Prominent members of society, the couple resided in a spacious Mediterranean home at 647 Escobar Avenue (still standing), built in 1926, and valued at $50,000 in 1930.

If the Andersons were indeed living in the Miami area for any extended period by 1920, it could have been around this time that Myra first met Richard Merrick, then still a teenager, and they most likely were friendly with Richard during the period of his first marriage.  By 1937 the couple were living at 1112 Milan Avenue. Their stay at Milan Avenue was brief – by 1940 Myra and Thomas moved to an even grander two-story mansion at 1001 Coral Way (also still standing.)

The state of the Anderson’s marriage starts to become a bit murky by the early 1940s. On September 29, 1942, Richard Merrick enlisted in the US Army. In his registration he listed his home address as 1001 Coral Way, which of course was the Anderson residence. In answer to the question “NAME AND ADDRESS OF PERSON WHO WILL ALWAYS KNOW YOUR RESIDENCE”, he listed “Mrs. H.R. Anderson” and gave as her address the Coral Way estate.

By 1944, it seems possible that Howard and Myra had separated. The City Directory shows Thomas (with Myra’s name, in parentheses, next to his, indicating they were married), with offices at 101 E. Flagler Street. His home address was given as 9500 East Dixie Highway, Miami Shores.

If the couple had separated, it was short-lived, and they were soon living at the same address. The Andersons moved again, this time to a spacious Spanish-Revival residence 3914 LeJeune Road. Following a lengthy illness, It was there that Howard died, on September 4, 1947, at the age of 71, four days before Myra’s birthday. Lauded as a Miami “pioneer” in his prominent obituary, he was survived by Myra and one brother. His funeral took place on September 6th at the Congregational Church. His ashes were sent to New York, for burial at Mount Albion Cemetery in Albion. His tombstone does not have his dates of birth of death, but simply the chiseled words “Coral Gables”.

Myra, after 35 years of marriage, found herself a widow at the age of 57. Not for long, however. On Saturday, June 25, 1949, the Miami News printed that Richard, aged 46, and Myra, aged 55 (she was actually 59, shaving a few years off her real age) had filed an application to wed during the past week.  Richard listed his address as 4235 Lenox Dr., Coconut Grove, and his profession as artist and teacher, while she listed her residence as 3914 LeJeune Rd. They were married the same day the notices were published, in Coral Gables on June 25th, with his sister Ethel Merrick and brother Charles F. Merrick serving as witnesses.

Any raised eyebrows were subdued, and the rest of their story together becomes peacefully quiet. Richard moved into Myra’s LeJeune home. The couple were married for 10 years before Myra died October 30, 1959, at the age of 70. She was survived by Richard and a brother in Canada. Private services were held at the Merrick home on November 2nd.  As she was not buried beside her first husband in Albion, it is probable she was cremated.

It would be another ten years before Richard Merrick wed for the third and final time, to the much admired and beloved Miriam Heath Selles, whom he met while both were working at the University of Miami…but that’s a story for another article.

  • By John R. Allen
  • Volume One; Number Two
  • September 2018