November 8, 2020, 89, Goldsboro
Robert Merle Best, Sr., from Goldsboro, North Carolina, died Sunday, November 8. He was born March 30, 1931 to the late Hazel and Tom R. Best.
Merle loved all sports particularly football. As number 22, he scored the first touchdown in the then brand-new Earthquakes stadium. He went on to play football at Campbell College and East Carolina University. He was in the Marine Reserve at ECU and was drafted in May 1952. Merle was sent to Parris Island for basic training and earned the Marine Rifle Sharpshooter Badge. He ultimately ended up 20 miles south of the DMZ sleeping in a tent during the snowy winter. He never had a desire to go camping after that. He received the National Defense Service Medal, Korean Service Medal with a star, and the United Nations Service Medal. Because of a near-death experience flying as a young man with his brother, Ed, in a small plane, Merle disliked flying. So, when offered R and R which involved flying to Japan, he refused and stayed on the front line. He told his children stories about how terrible conditions were for the Korean people. He had great empathy for them.
Merle was so unassuming that when he finally returned home from the war he landed in Raleigh and planned to walk/hitch-hike 60 miles to Goldsboro. Irma, his sister, happened to be driving to a party in Raleigh and spotted him. She picked him up and took him home for a homecoming.
Merle met his wife, Mary Louise, in the late summer of 1957. Merle saw Mary Louise walking by Tom R. Best Clothing Store and determined at that moment he would marry her. They were married April 6, 1958 and were married almost 62 years, and with each passing day, grew more in love than ever before. A richer love story has never been written, nor ever will be. Her death earlier this year broke his heart and he never fully recovered from losing her.
Merle loved Mary Louise and his children, Robert, David (Debbie), and Mary Ann (Dave). He also cherished his grandchildren—Matthew Best (Clair), Paul Best, Colin Best, Courtney Best, Conner Best, Kate Millard, Jennifer Lopez (Ryan), Amanda Millard, and Molly Millard (Carl)—and his great-grandchildren—Bentley Sheridan, Winnie Sheridan, Dylan Sheridan, and Asher Best. Merle was blessed with a wonderful extended family and is survived by his sister Irma Wiggins (deceased brother-in-law Durwood Wiggins); brothers Ed Best (Jo), and Jerry Best (Joan), sister-in-law Ruth Ann Hamilton; brothers-in-law Tom Hamilton (Carol) and Bill Hamilton (Lois). In addition, he leaves behind many wonderful nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his brother, Tom R. Best, Jr., and sister-in-law Jane.
“For better men’s wear see the Best boys” was the slogan for Tom R. Best Clothing Store founded in 1938. Merle worked alongside his father and brother, Tommy Best, for decades keeping Goldsboro’s gentlemen looking top notch. Once Tom R. Best store closed, he worked with his brother, Jerry, at Best and Sauls Men’s Clothing to continue the tradition. Merle often said working with his brother, Jerry, brought some of the best times of his life. Merle finally retired at age 84. Merle was a dedicated member of Saint Paul United Methodist Church for 89 years. Merle loved all sports and spent his last day watching football with his children and daughter-in-law. His real interest was Mary Louise, his children, grandchildren, brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews. He was a dedicated husband, father, grandfather, brother, and uncle. In his later years, Merle enjoyed long walks with Annie, his chocolate brown Labradoodle.
A private interment in the Saint Paul Columbarium will take place at 10:30 AM Friday, November 13, 2020. A celebration of Merle’s life for family only (because of COVID 19) will follow at 11:00 AM at Saint Paul United Methodist Church 204 East Chestnut Street, Goldsboro, NC 27530. Masks are required. There will be no visitation because of COVID 19.
In lieu of flowers the family requests contributions be made to Saint Paul United Methodist Church 204 East Chestnut Street, Goldsboro, NC 27530. 919-734-2965
A poem by big brother Ed Best in honor of Merle’s 70th birthday:
Here’s to Merle and his past 70 years
In all that time he gained a lot between the ears
He has matured and now is a mild-mannered guy who is swell
But there was a time in his younger years that he could raise a little hell
In high school and college he played football and that made him tough
He was then drafted into the Marine Corps and sent to Korea and was that rough
One night in Wilson while out on the town
He tangled with the Highway Patrol who had to settle him down
He spent some time in the nice county jail
Until Daddy Tom arranged for his bail
Then there came to town a pretty young woman who went to work at
The Wachovia bank
Merle thought she was great and to her cute personality and beauty
Matrimony is where he thought he ought to be
So a wedding ensued in St. Paul with a lot of jubilee
All of the above led Merle to his present state of grace
And Daddy Tom to have remarked with a straight face
That it took three things to tame Merle in Tom’s view
The Marine Corps, The Highway Patrol and Mary Lou