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Elliott toasted for works

April 03, 2004|by JULIE E. GREENE

julieg@herald-mail.com

Once after a business trip that included negotiating the purchase of an accounting firm, Merle Elliott and two of his co-workers stopped to buy a used hubcap for a used Cadillac.

Between the three of them, they didn't have enough money to buy the hubcap, recalled Jerry B. Bullington, managing partner of Smith Elliott Kearns & Company's Hagerstown office.

Elliott ended up using his Boy Scout training to get the salesman to take an American Express card, Bullington said at Friday night's tribute to Merle S. Elliott at Hagerstown Community College's Athletic Recreation and Community Center.

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For decades, Elliott has used his negotiating skills, leadership and philanthropy to aid local economic development, nonprofit agencies, education and government, many who know him have said.

Elliott was chosen to be the subject of the fifth annual tribute by the HCC Foundation and HCC Booster Club. He was chosen by last year's Tribute Committee because he is a pillar of the community, Jerry Spessard, who was co-chairman of the committee at the time, said Thursday.

"I don't think people realize what this guy has done behind the scenes for this community," Spessard said.

Enough people realized Elliott's contributions to make the tribute the most successful yet, raising approximately $75,000 for a new athletic/academic scholarship fund Elliott is creating, said Richard Phoebus Sr., chairman of the current Tribute Committee.

The money will go into an endowment fund. The earnings from the money raised at the tribute will translate into three one-year scholarships a year, Phoebus said.

Before the formalities of Friday night's tribute began, Elliott, 73, who lives north of Hagerstown, said he was happy the event raised money to help the college.

"I don't particularly like the spotlight," Elliott said. "When I left Korea, the commanding officer said, talking about me, said I was quietly effective and that's all I wanted to be."

"I'm very flattered and a lot of people did an awful lot of work to put this together," Elliott said.

More than 400 people attended the tribute in a gymnasium that had been transformed into an elegant banquet hall with black and white drapes, tablecloths and napkins, and white flowers adorning the 53 tables.

Pictures of Elliott in well-known Frank Sinatra poses adorned the room, as well as a series of shots of him at an HCC Board of Trustees meeting. Above the photo series was a sign reading, "Our chairman of the board."

In addition to Bullington, Elliott was scheduled to be toasted by fellow HCC Trustees Patricia K. Cushwa and William J. "Bill" Reuter.

Bullington joked about Elliott's management style.

"If the vote was 10 to 1, the one had it," Bullington said.

Bullington said Elliott used to say, "Dictatorship was the most efficient form of government because you only had to keep one person happy."

Elliott also liked the "participatory totalitarianism" management style, Bullington joked.

"In closing, I'd like to say the partners in the firm owe you a lot, but don't worry, we'll pay you soon," Bullington said.

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