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Bill Meyer's community legacy paid tribute at memorial service

Published 10:24 am, Sunday, July 13, 2014

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  • A photo of Bill Meyer on the program for his memorial service Saturday, which was attended by several hundred people at Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church. Photo: Jarret Liotta / Westport News
    A photo of Bill Meyer on the program for his memorial service Saturday, which was attended by several hundred people at Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church. Photo: Jarret Liotta

 

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By one definition, a man's legacy can be measured by his contributions to his community. If that's the case, William F. "Bill" Meyer III could never be forgotten in Westport.

A celebration of Meyer's life took place Saturday at Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, a service conducted in conjunction with Meyer's own Saugatuck Congregational Church. His family, joined by hundreds of friends and those touched by Meyer's life and legacy filled the sanctuary, where memories were shared about his seemingly countless community causes and civic volunteerism.

Meyer died at age 85 on June 28 after a two-year bout with cancer.

"We gather to comfort and support one another in our common loss," said the Rev. Alison Patton of Saugatuck church.

In a 2011 interview with the Westport News, Meyer called himself a "full-time volunteer" and catalogued his community activities at the time this way: "On the Representative Town Meeting 17 years and counting. Also Sunrise Rotary Club; First Night; Y's Men, Friends of the Westport Center for Senior Activities, Westport Community Theater, Westport chapter of the American Association for Retired Persons; Westport Little League; umpire of Little League games at Bill Meyer Field named after me on North Compo Road, Meals on Wheels; mentoring a 14-year-old boy from the age of 5 on board of Isiah House in Bridgeport that hosts parolees for six months as they "transition" into life outside prison."

His eulogists agreed that his role in a wide range of community activities will be virtually impossible to fill.

"He's irreplaceable," said Gordon Joseloff, former first selectman. "But his work and his memory will be well-remembered for many years."

"We will all miss his cheering us on at the RTM," said longtime friend Velma Heller, RTM District 9.

"I will always remember him as the author of the most famous strikeout call in softball history," said Parks and Recreation Commissioner Steve Axthelm, remembering Meyer's longtime role as an umpire for Westport girls softball. " `Oh, I'm sorry sweetheart!' He couldn't say strike three."

Meyer was hailed as a kind man by several people, as well as a maven of personal service.

"Bill was many things," said longtime friend Larry Aasen. "He was a family man. He was very popular. He was well-liked."

Aasen also described him as restless, which may have been one of his motivations for his intense civic involvement.

"What motivated him to do these things? ... It's a very difficult question," he said. "He considered it an opportunity to make somebody happy and to make himself happy, because he was doing good."

Former U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays said of Meyer, "In my 34 years of public service, I never knew anyone like Bill Meyer. I love the man ... but I never would have wanted to marry him," he joked praising Meyer's widow, Caroline.

"I think the thing that brings me most joy, Bill knew we loved him, knowing that he knew we appreciated him, knowing that he knew we will miss him deeply," he said.

"As he would say, `Bravo, my friend! Bravo!' " Shays recalled of Meyer's exhortations.

Meyer's son-in-law Jeff Seltzer said Meyer and his late son, Eric, were looking down on the memorial service, and Meyer was likely "bragging about the great turnout."

Seltzer also praised his wife, Trina, Meyer's daughter, as inheriting her father's commitment to help the community.

"I'd like my daughters to be the best of what I am," Seltzer said. "If that's the goal of a father, then Bill hit it out of the park."