Mary Merritt was named the Sedalia Business Women's organization's Woman of the Year 2016 at the SBW's annual Public Relations Dinner Thursday night at Best Western State Fair Motor Inn, 32nd and Limit.

Merritt admitted she was totally surprised by the honor.

"Oh my goodness," she exclaimed. "When they said 'a graduate of Windsor High School' I thought, there's not that many Windsor High School graduates here. And then CMSU, and I thought, oh my!"

Merritt was also surprised by relatives sitting close by in the banquet room. "They moved me so my back was to them," she explained. She only saw them when she rose up from her seat to accept her prestigious award.

Merritt has been a member of SBW for three years, and a 50-year member of the now defunct American Business Women. The SBW is still the largest chapter in the state. Merritt works part time with Myrna Ragar at Ragar Banners. "I quit working full time; I only work 'til 3 o'clock in the afternoon, I just work six-hour days. But then I have to go by the gym and walk, I keep going," Merritt said.

She is also a major player in the local chapter of the League of Women Voters. "You know, one of the things in the League that I enjoyed more than anything was eight years ago when the Russians came to visit (and learn about out election process).

Merritt also serves on the Sedalia City Council, filling out the unexpired term of former Fourth Ward Councilwoman Vicky Collins. She was appointed to that post by Mayor Stephen J. Galliher.

"Before that, I was on the Water Board," she said the active octogenarian. "And I was also involved in the Trails End Project as a bookkeeper. And I was on the Clean Air Sedalia Committee for a couple of years, that kept me busy. Then there's all these wonderful kids, I have so many nieces and nephews."

Merritt has plans to see ragtime pianist Jeff Barnhart and his wife Ann on Friday (he has a concert at the Liberty Center) "That's always fun." And one of her niece's daughters is performing in a play this weekend; she'll see that play on Saturday. And on Sunday, Merritt, 85, has plans to take a ride in a hot-air balloon.

Ragar Banners By Design was named the SBW Business of the Year 2016. Owner Myrna Ragar accepted a plaque from SBW member Linda Fox.

Ragar was not quite as surprised about her award as Merritt, because she was told ahead of time. But she was equally appreciative.

" I was very, very pleased and honored," she said after the ceremony. "Ragar has been in business almost 35 years. I worked for Parkhurst before that about 17 years. I hate to say that, it tells how old I am," she laughed.

Ragar employs four part-time employees at her business at the former Miller Plaza (now owned by Jorge Guevara) here in Sedalia.

Her well-known creations are shipped all over the US, and one banner in particular made several trips around the world.

"We did one for MU for their anniversary, and our banner went up in the International Space Station with an astronaut who was an alumnus of MU," she said.

"We do all sorts of things," Ragar noted, adding that almost every job is a custom one. "And we also have the other business, art and graphics, that Madge Gressley is a partner in, and we do all kinds of brochures and booklets, any kind of material, so anything that needs to be printed, we find a way to do it," she said.

Entertainment for the evening was provided by members of the Smith-Cotton Theatre Department. They ran through a couple of scenes from the upcoming Mary Poppins production. They were under the supervision of Director Teri Turner, who was also the guest speaker for the night.

SBW Public Relations Co-Chair Lori Haney presented Turner with a check from the club following her speech.

Also during the meeting, SBW's Michelle Sparks presented CACTUS representative Mary Jo Sartin with a check and several school supplies for their service project. According to Sartin, the most recent drive to collect supplies for needy area students yielded 1,878 backpacks. In addition, CACTUS has since made 15 deliveries directly to local schools.

"We really appreciate the ongoing support," Sartin said, adding that CACTUS is a year-round effort.

Sheila Miller, representing the BWM (Business Women of Missouri) Executive Committee, invited SBW members to attend the Dec. 2 open house, board meeting and auction at the Grand Hotel in Branson.

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