Dr. Donald William Mercer mastered every trade he pursued, but the former Mt. Lebanon resident was at the top of his game when it came to tennis.
“Don was a true gentleman and a tireless tennis enthusiast,” said Deb Hazlett.
Hazlett is a USTA volunteer and a member of the Middle States Board of Directors as a presidential appointee. She forged a friendship with Mercer working on the first committee that brought Futures to Pittsburgh.
“Don worked to bring tennis to the community,” added Hazlett. “Whether a youth or adult player, spectator, tennis pro or volunteer, many will remember Don making some impact on their lives.”
Mercer, 84, passed away Sept. 23 in St. Clair Hospital. Following a service on Sept. 27, he was interred in Mt. Calvery Cemetery on the National Road in Wheeling, W.Va.
Born April 18, 1938, in Wheeling, Mercer was the son J. Loran Mercer and Wilma Dauber Mercer. He is survived by his wife of 61 years, Beth Ann Wolfe Mercer, and three sons, John Leslie Mercer (Laurie) of Huntington, W.Va., Thomas Loran Mercer of Rockville, Md., and Ron William Mercer of Gibsonia.
Mercer had four grandchildren: Cassandra Dawn (Cassie) Mercer of Arlington, Va., John Jeremiah (JJ) Mercer, Andrew Jacob (AJ) Mercer, Samantha Hart (Sammie) Mercer, all of Huntington, and a brother, William Carl Mercer, MD, (Gigi) of Wheeling.
As an amateur player, Mercer competed in local, regional and national tournaments. He ranked No. 1 in Middle States Section in singles for his age division. While he competed nationally with all three of his sons, he and Ron earned a No. 1 ranking as USTA’s top 65 and over father/son tandem.
According to Hazlett, Mercer was “instrumental” in bringing the USTA Men’s Pro Circuit Futures tournament to Pittsburgh. “This was the only men’s pro circuit event in the Middle States section,” said Hazlett.
Mercer did so while he was the tournament director for the West Penn Amateur/National Collegiate Clay Court Championships, which is played during the summer in Mt. Lebanon. While the clay courts have been played for over a century, the pro men’s event has been played for 20 consecutive summers.
Mercer served in many leadership positions for tennis clubs and organizations and initiated many programs, such as junior team tennis, as well as the township’s highly successful youth and adult programs.
For his efforts, he was awarded the National Annual Community Service Award by the USTA for outstanding contributions to recreational tennis. In 1978, it was the first of many honors.
Among his other prestigious laurels are inductions into the Wheeling Hall of Fame in 2019 for outstanding work in professions, the Wheeling Jesuit University athletic Hall of Fame (1994) and Hall of Honor (2015) as well as the USTA (Middle State Section) Hall of Fame in 2022. Mercer earned the Presidential Award from the Allegheny Mountain District of the USTA in 2016 and its Tennis Family of the Year distinction in 2001.
Mercer was a success off the courts and as a captain of industry. He earned a doctorate in biochemistry from the University of Pittsburgh.
He became the chief biochemist in the pathology department of Montefiore Hospital and also held the title of assistant clinical professor at the pathology department in the University of Pittsburgh’s Medical School. Later, he was promoted to associate clinical professor at University of Pittsburgh’s Medical School Pathology Department and worked with the Pittsburgh Cancer Institute as a co-director in research on tumor markers. He also spent five years as the chief biochemist in the Pathology Department of Allegheny General Hospital.
As a clinical biochemist, he researched and developed the CK-MB enzyme test for the rapid and reliable detection of suspected heart attacks. His work was published in “Landmark Papers in Clinical Chemistry” as one of the top 40 clinical chemistry papers of the 20th century. His work was in company; listed alongside discoveries by Nobel prize winners Linus Pauling and Rosalyn Yalow. The test is used worldwide to this day.
After retirement, Mercer moved to Wheeling with his wife. There he worked tirelessly to organize a pep band for the WJU basketball, volleyball, soccer and rugby games as well as the Wheeling Central football games.
Mercer’s interest in music was as lifelong as his tennis interests. He was an accomplished clarinet player and held the No. 1 chair in the Harwood High School Band. He was a member of the West Virginia state high school all-star band. Occasionally, he also substituted in the Wheeling Symphony.