Calvin Mercer Celebrates 90

By Mary Fox

When asked how he felt about being 90, Calvin Mercer hesitated and said, “You caught me off guard. Actually nothing has changed.”

Cal’s 90 years don’t show and he is as active and involved as ever.

In the “nothing has changed” category, Cal’s preparations are almost complete for his skiers to return to the five rooms he rents out in his ski lodge/home in the big red house on Mill Street Extension, or to the old timers, the Farm to Market Road.

Cal, his brother Roger and sister Ellen all grew up on Elizabeth Street in Ellicottville. Their parents bought the farm in the late 1940s and it has been in the family ever since. The house was built in 1892 after a fire destroyed a building on the same site built in 1837. Once, when digging next to the house, Cal found old charred timbers from that building long ago time.

Upon graduation from high school (then housed in the 1887 Building), Cal went into the service.  When he completed his Army stint, he attended Mohawk Junior College in Utica, N.Y., under the G.I. Bill.

“Classes were small, the faculty was tops and they had a captive audience — a group of veterans who were anxious to get on with their lives,” he said.

Cal remembers this experience as one of the best, for it was here that he became hooked on education.

Cal finished his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Kentucky. His teaching career started with a one-year position in business administration at East Tennessee in Johnson City. He received his doctorate at Florida State, where he completed a course in a new field, Student Personnel in Higher Education. Upon completion, he returned to East Tennessee, became Dean of Men and remained in that position for 25 years. He continued to teach one course in accounting.

In 1982, upon returning to his roots and the old family farm, he took up raising beef cattle and gardening. Spring planting, summer garden tending and fall freezing takes up much of Cal’s year.

“I put up 100 pounds of corn, 20 pounds of green beans and 30 pounds of broccoli this year, which will last me until the next harvest,” he said. “Some I share with people who don’t have a garden. Most I keep for myself.”

His specialty is corn and he swears by the special formula he uses to plant it.

Cal loves sweet treats, such as Lucille Harris’ brownies and his most favorite treat, Marge Fitzpatrick’s ambrosia.

“Right now I have 11 pies in the freezer,” he said, most brought to him by one of his skiers.

“I limit myself to one a week,” he confesses.

Another thing that hasn’t changed is his love of quilting, and he is getting ready to start a new one this winter. An expert quilter, he has made over 100 quilts since the college president’s wife challenged him to join her quilting class.

“I did and was the first in the class to finish,” he laughed.

Teresa Mercer, Calvin’s niece sums it up best.

“He has been an inspiration to his family and we expect to have him with us for a long, long time,” she said.

Cal said, “The days aren’t long enough, but above all, his family, and his church remain the constants in his life. Nothing has changed there.”