Fallen Heroes: Officer Harry T. Mereness

Nelson Zoch

October 16, 1933

On Monday night, October 16, 1933, Houston Motorcycle Officer Harry Talcott Mereness was on duty and driving his motorcycle inbound on Old Galveston Road. He was attempting a left turn onto Broadway when his motorcycle was struck by an automobile driven by sixteen-year-old Owen Barry of La Porte. The side of Young Barry’s car struck the motorcycle as Barry made a turn to go into a root beer stand, throwing Officer Mereness to the pavement and causing severe injuries.

Mereness was first taken to Parkview Hospital at Harrisburg and 75th and, after the severity of his injuries was determined, he was transferred to Jeff Davis Hospital. He was treated for a fractured skull, a broken leg and numerous internal injuries. He passed away at Jeff Davis on Wednesday, October 18, 1933 at 12:15 p.m. He was thirty-nine years old.

Justice of the Peace George L. Rickey originally charged Owen Barry with assault by auto. After Officer Mereness’ death, the charge was automatically changed to negligent homicide and referred to juvenile court.

Officer Harry T. Mereness was a native of Ypsalanti, Michigan, having been born there on September 15, probably in 1894. His parents were Seth and Julia Talcott Mereness. At the time of his service to HPD and his death, he resided at 8137 Joplin with his wife Gertrude Cure Mereness and sons, Lyman, ten, and Bert, five. He also was survived by his mother, Mrs. Julia Mereness and one sister, Miss Eugenia Mereness, both of Michigan. He was a member of the Eagles, the Dokes, the Odd Fellows and the Knights of Pythiae.

Funeral services were held on Thursday, October 19, 1933, at 8 p.m. at the Houston Funeral Home under the direction of the Redfield Lodge No 478 of the Knights of Pythiae. Active pallbearers were Pat Creagan, Fred Cochran, A. O. Taylor, Sam Wheatly, R. B. Hooper, and Captain R. T. Honea. Honorary pallbearers were members of the Houston Police Department motorcycle division. The body was forwarded at midnight that same night by the Houston Funeral Home to Ypsalanti, Michigan, via the Missouri Pacific Railroad Lines. Burial followed in Michigan.

Mrs. Gertrude Mereness, faced with no pension from her husband’s death and two young sons to raise in the midst of the Great Depression, obviously had few opportunities. Having a sister in the San Antonio suburb of Harlandale, she moved to that area, where she apparently did an excellent job in raising her two sons.

The oldest, Lyman, entered World War II, becoming a dive bomber pilot who flew thirty-nine missions before coming home safely. He later studied at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio and, even though he had received an honorable discharge from the U. S. Navy, he chose to re-enter the service of his country. He rose to the rank of full commander in the Navy and retired at that rank after over twenty-seven years of service. He retired to the Victoria area community of Inez. He also was a gospel preacher for more than twenty years.

Lyman, who was born on June 2, 1923, died February 16, 2006, at the age of eighty-two. He was survived by his wife, Mary Lou Phillips Mereness, a daughter, Cheryl Goode, two sons, Lyman Mereness II and Ben Mereness, his brother Bert, eight grandchildren and nine great grandchildren. He was laid to rest in Victoria with full military honors.

Bert Mereness, who was born on July 16, 1928, served his country in the United States Coast Guard. He also studied at St. Mary’s University, graduating with a business degree with a major in economics. In 1958, Bert made a serious career choice by joining the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He served in a number of assignments and retired as a supervisor from the Bureau in 1982 in Phoenix, Arizona. He has enjoyed a number of interesting assignments in the private sector since his retirement.

In 2006, Bert was semi-retired and living in Phoenix with his wife of many years, Kathleen. He has two daughters, Patricia and Catherine, and one grandson, Wade. A third daughter, Karen, passed away in 1995. Thanks go to retired FBI Agent Karl McLeod (ex HPD), who submitted a letter to the Houston Police Retired Officers Association advising of the passing of Lyman Mereness. He had met Bert through their years of service with the Bureau.

In an interview in April 2006, Bert Mereness said he was only five years old when his dad was killed, but recalled vividly a short motorcycle ride he took with him. He remembered the rough times his mother experienced, how she remarried a good man who treated him and Lyman very well. Unfortunately, his mom’s health failed her early in life and she died in 1950. Both Lyman and Bert established themselves as responsible citizens before her death and she would have been extremely proud of how her sons served their country in the honorable manner as their father. Officer Mereness’ mother and sister passed away.

As for young Owen Barry, research has found no information available to report the disposition of the charges against him. While it probably was a tragic accident, it cost the life of a fine man, an officer, husband, father, son and brother. Research did produce information about an Owen Barry that is believed to have been this young man. This man Barry, was born in 1917, which would have made him sixteen in 1933. He died in Alabama in 1954 at age thirty-seven, two years younger than Officer Mereness at the time of his death.