Joan Mercer Bitting, 92; Founding Member of St. Matthew

Joan Mercer Bitting, a founding member of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, passed away on September 2. She was 92. Born in Beechhurst, Long Island, on September 16, 1917, Joan traveled to Los Angeles at the age of 10 with her mother, Beryl Mercer, a stage and screen actress who had important roles in 52 films, including ‘All Quiet On The Western Front.’ They first lived in Hollywood, and Joan got her California driver’s license at the age of 13 because she needed to drive her mother, who was too short to operate the early automobiles. The two moved to Pacific Palisades in 1932, and Joan attended University High School and Woodbury College. She met the love of her life, Richard Bitting, in 1937 at the Palisades Methodist Church youth group. Despite early predictions that the marriage wouldn’t last, they were together for 72 years. They had two sons, Dick and Bill. Starting during World War II and into the 1950s, Joan managed the UCLA bookstore, where among her many duties she assisted fledgling basketball coach John Wooden and football coach Henry R. ‘Red’ Sanders with their players’ academic book needs. After working for the The Rand Corporation in Santa Monica as a research librarian, Joan assisted doctors at UCLA’s Child Amputee Clinic in Westwood and, with son Bill, helped found the Milo Brooks Foundation. She was always a voracious reader. A lifetime Episcopalian, Joan and husband Dick became founding members of St. Matthew’s in January 1945. Joan sang in the choir and served on many committees during the early formation of the church. She eventually became secretary to Kenneth W. Cary, the church’s first rector. Her office was located in the home the Cary family occupied on Via de la Paz. Husband Dick was a member of the Vestry and chaired the committee that started St. Matthew’s Parish School. In 1976, Joan and Dick sold the family home on Chautauqua and moved to Westlake Village, where they resided at the time of her death. She was a volunteer at Westlake Hospital for 12 years. She had many friends at the hospital and the Westlake Yacht Club. A devoted member of St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church, where she and Dick faithfully attended services, she served as an usher at 8 a.m. services along with her husband. Joan was predeceased by her son Dick in 1989. She is survived by her husband Richard; son Bill (wife Kathleen) of Pacific Palisades; granddaughter Michelle Bitting Abrams of Pacific Palisades and grandson John Pell Bitting of Seattle, Washington; her son Dick’s widow, Marietta Bitting of Poteau, Oklahoma, and grandchildren Cece Bitting Carter of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Debbie Bitting Powell of Memphis, Tennessee, and Mike Bitting of Houston, Texas; and nine great-grandchildren. A memorial service will be held at St. Patrick’s in Thousand Oaks on Saturday, September 12 at 11 a.m. Joan’s ashes will be interned in the columbarium at St. Matthew’s in Pacific Palisades.