Noel Mermer’s adult beverage of choice was Budweiser. The colder it was, the bigger the smile on his face. Many days after working on the latest edition of the Charleston City Paper, he’d stop by a favorite watering hole, have a couple of drinks with friends and talk over the day. There would be big laughs and snarky jokes, interspersed occasionally with a dose of the serious.

Longtime friend Raymond McGuire, once a bartender at the Bubble Room, often would welcome Mermer, the newspaper’s publisher, and co-owners Stephanie Barna, the editor, and Blair Barna, the advertising director.

“Stephanie would drink martinis and Noel would have Budweisers,” said McGuire, named the city’s best bartender by the newspaper in 1999 and 2000.

Noel Stephen Mermer, 53, died late Saturday after a long battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. He is survived by his wife Christine, and sons, Noel and Bennett. He also is survived by a sister, Sheila Mutz (Bryce) of Atlanta, and nephews, Bryce and Blake Mutz, also of Atlanta, and his in-laws, Suzanne Boren of Mount Pleasant, and Cecil (Cindy) Boren of Greensboro, North Carolina.

“As a highly active, Type-A personality, I have to say it’s been hell on earth. ALS sucks,” Mermer wrote in December 2018 when he described his battle with the disease. “A motor neuron disease, it affects the function of the nerves and muscles, and the way it affects each person varies. There are two types of ALS, sporadic and familial. I have the sporadic version, meaning my two sons are not at risk genetically.

“We finally told our boys in July (2017), when their ages were 9 and 12. They have emerged as even better versions of themselves as their helpfulness, leadership, compassion and kindness have become even stronger. We are both very proud of what wonderful young men they are and how much they help.”

Mermer and the Barnas started their “scrappy little newspaper” in 1997 at the dawn of the modern Charleston renaissance. “Rents were cheap, bars were open all night long, and Granny’s Goodies — our first advertiser — was a mecca of hippie weirdness,” Mermer and the Barnas wrote last year

The publication dedicated its coverage to food, music, the arts and local news. It was “more about the fun stuff going on than the bad stuff happening. Not only did we get to observe Charleston transform from a sleepy Southern town into a much-less-sleepy Southern town, but sometimes we had influence on that change too, writing stories and conducting investigations that highlighted issues and problems that weren’t being looked at by the daily newspaper, which at the time was way more entrenched in the South of Broad aristocracy than it is these days.”

In October 2019, the owners sold the newspaper to a publishing partnership owned by Ed Bell of Georgetown and Andy Brack of Charleston. 

“We are incredibly saddened by Noel’s passing,” said Brack, the current publisher. “His energy, determination and spirit to excel continue to permeate the pages of the City Paper — and always will.”

Last year in announcing the sale, Mermer said the City Paper had the “best audience in America. This is exciting news for our community because it will allow an experienced local ownership team to take the reins of what has become Charleston’s preferred news outlet for students and young families who want the best local information on arts, culture, music, and more.”

McGuire recalled how Mermer was driven to make the paper successful with his team. 

“A testament to that success is how many employees have been here as long as they have been,” he said. “We used to laugh when the first person was here eight years.” Today, some of the City Paper team have been working at the newspaper for more than 15 years. 

At the end of his 2018 column, Mermer concluded, “We are extremely grateful to the friends and family who have helped carry us through this terrible past year and a half. We are thankful for all the blessings we have, despite this disease. And we will likely create a way to fundraise to further find a cure to ALS. Thank you all for your love, concern and support.”

Funeral arrangements are being handled by J. Henry Stuhr Funeral Home. The family requests no flowers. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to a new foundation that will be announced soon. 

Noel Stephen Mermer, 1967 to 2020. Rest in peace.