PORTLAND – Hundreds are expected to gather Sunday at First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church to celebrate and honor Devon Merritt, a 2008 Portland High School graduate and world traveler, who died Friday from a rare lung disease. He was 23.

Mr. Merritt was remembered by his family Wednesday as an extraordinary son, brother and friend, who had an infectious smile and passion for life.

Mr. Merritt saw more adventure in his 23 years than most people do in their whole lives. He visited England with his Odyssey soccer team; Costa Rica with his senior class; and toured northern Europe by train for a month after graduating.

Last spring, he toured southern Europe. He also made trips to Colorado, California, Las Vegas, the Bahamas, Montreal and Quebec City.

His father, Allen Merritt, of Westbrook, referenced a photo of his son on a trip to Costa Rica standing in a doorway looking out at a coffee plantation. He described a path in the distance leading over a hill.

“He was always traveling,” his father said. “When Devon left his body, he was taking a journey over the next hill …

“It’s so much of who he was. He was always looking forward to another adventure.”

Mr. Merritt grew up in Portland. He was a standout on Portland High’s soccer and lacrosse teams.

He began showing signs of rheumatoid arthritis during his senior year of high school. He would complain that his ankles were sore. One morning, he couldn’t straighten his arm.

Local doctors referred the family to several hospitals such as Boston Children’s Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, Johns Hopkins Hospital and National Jewish Health in Denver, one of the top respiratory hospitals in the country. Two years ago, his arthritis developed into a rare lung disease.

“We left no stone unturned,” his father said. “I can only say he had something that no human being could help him with.”

Mr. Merritt also leaves his mother, Melody Boulton, and his brother, Zac Casey, both of Portland.

He graduated from the University of Maine at Orono in 2012 with a degree in mass communication.

He previously worked at The Grill Room and The Front Room and interned for a summer at Lone Wolf Productions.

Most recently, he was internet service manager at Prime Honda in Saco.

His father said his son enjoyed his work in the restaurants and that he had a sophisticated palate when it came to food, beer and wine.

“He was an old soul,” his father said. “He loved life.”

Mr. Merritt was remembered by many this week as a loyal friend who gave his time to help others. His father noted that he helped two of his friends recover from serious illnesses and that he also was supportive of his best friend, whose mother died three years ago. Recently, the friend hung his mother’s picture in Mr. Merritt’s hospital room.

“Devon passed on the third anniversary of his friend’s mother’s passing,” his father said. “It’s amazing to me as his father … there are so many parts of an adult child’s life that a parent is unaware of. The things we are learning about Devon are amazing. … So many people held him in such high regard. It’s not surprising. It reaffirms our pride in him.”

 

Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

mcreamer@pressherald.com