I learned of Meredith’s death by way of Facebook in the fall of 2017. Meredith (I came to call her Meredity as a consequence of my miserable typing) was one of those few who really do leave a void when they are gone. My friend Mike Strickland and I (we were from Canton) met Meredith (she was from Shaker Heights) at an Episcopal youth conference the summer, I think, before our senior year in high school. The three of us had lots of fun together back in the day, and Meredith and I may even have learned something about ourselves from our one or two ill-starred attempts at romance. I know I did. Meredith’s attention to me in general and to my poetry in particular nourished my self-confidence, but that can hardly surprise, given the strength and abundance of her generosity. I attach an old vignette, which I don’t think I ever showed to her but share now with those who remember her. It recalls the Meredith-Mike-and-Todd trio in one of its zanier and possibly more touching moments as it celebrates a unique young woman’s friendship so artlessly hospitable that two adolescent men were willing to defy parental prohibition to enjoy it. Rest in peace, rare and beautiful friend!
We Go Courting Meredith
There we were for the thrill of it
and you. Soc,
that’s Socrates the dog,
was necessarily underfoot in his place,
the kitchen, and though really no cynic,
clearly cared not to share with us
the great wisdom he possessed
from much firsthand experience
in the realm of love.
There, when Mike had unsuccessfully trusted the rolling
dishwasher for support and fallen onto the gas range
kept constantly lit for making instant coffee
and lighting cigarettes,
and said what we’d all remember and repeat for a long time:
“Everything either moves or burns!”
We cut it as close as we thought we possibly could,
then left. Of course,
on the long drive home, Mike’s
alternator began to fail,
and There We Were
with the lights off
driving at top speed in the dark,
knowing full well
we weren’t going to make it,
and painfully conscious
of just who was to blame,
and who was looking forward
to a good six months
of hell to pay.
Barbara and I were very saddened to learn of Meredith’s death. In my last communication with her in the fall, she talked of seeing the eclipse at Yellowstone. When we didn’t hear from her while we were in Denver, we simply assumed that you were on a post eclipse travel adventure or had gone west to see the Grand. Your email came as a sad reminder of how life and death play fast and loose with the best laid plans.
Meredith was a remarkable women, as you all know, and a good friend to us. She helped me land a job at the VA, helped us find our home in Ann Arbor, and even though I met Barbara years before I met Meredith, I’m pretty sure she had a hand in that too. She also helped clothe Libby for the first 2 or 3 years of her life with clothes from Eli.
She was a friend and also a mentor to me. She helped me navigate the ways of the federal bureaucracy and taught me a lot about politics, office and otherwise. I will always remember her advice “if you control the flip chart you control the meeting”.
Even though our contact was infrequent, we will miss Meredith. But that doesn’t begin to approach what you all are feeling. Meredith’s death has left a hole in all our hearts, some much bigger then others.
Our sincere condolences to you all.
-Love, John and Barbara Paglione
I will miss you Meredith!”
After it was clear Bruce and I were on the road to marriage, Meredith felt she deserved a Finders Fee. I was quite shocked, but her powerful reasons led me to give her a brand new KLH stereo set I had just bought.
We kept in touch off and on for many years and many phases of our lives.
Ironically about ten years ago, Meredith was pitching a job to UCSF where my husband was dean…he was astonished to see her in her professional mode, and even more than that impressed with the presentation. She got the job!…and we started a whole new phase of our friendship all over again!
She was one of a kind…bright,sympathetic,a great listener,witty,savvy…there are not enough adjectives to truly describe her.
I feel blessed we shared soooo much, and of course forever grateful she introduced me to my husband. I really loved her.”
But more importantly, I remember the precise shifts in my view she provided that informs the professional I became after leaving KSA. Some of those view shifts came directly from her boldness and willingness to challenge conventional thinking. Other view changes came from being included in the unique thought leadership engagements she attracted that allowed me to see institutions, innovations, collaborations and trends as other life forms that mature, morph, die and rebirth. When she told stories – personal and professional stories – she re-framed situations so that you could see a deeper truth or deeper connections.
She also shifted my views on cats. Remember the black cat throw rug in the guest bedroom. We have live performance art of that piece in our house daily.”
“I’m afraid I’m not very good with memorials, I’m overwhelmed with how poorly my words convey both my understanding of living through the death of someone you love and the mystery and awe of those that have had to do something that I have luckily never had to live through. I know that there is an enormous depth of sadness that comes with death of any loved one, and when the loved one is your mother, to be honest I can even imagine it. But, I can’t help but smile when I think of your mom. She was always so wry, so funny. Thinking of Meredith literally makes me feel good, makes my memories richer, makes me happy that I knew her. This goes back a long time. I can’t remember if it was 1965 or 1966 when we met in Ann Arbor. She was the least likely member of a sorority to be a member of a sorority. These weren’t my best years, and Meredith got me through some of the most difficult times of my life.
Of course, Ann Arbor was the sort of place everyone left in different directions. I didn’t see Meredith again until we moved to Madison in 1983. I was pretty confident that it was that moving was bad decision, until within a few days or weeks of our getting there I spied Meredith and Peter in line waiting for the same movie. I remember her greeting me as if fifteen years was fifteen days. She and Peter (and Eli and Jess) turned our confidence that things were going to turn out badly into confidence that they would turn out well. And they did.
I feel terrible that we haven’t been able to see your folks in so long. I did get periodic news from your mother and how joyful they were after Peter’s retirement. But we moved east, as you all moved west. As you doubtless now know, New Yorkers are afraid to cross the Hudson (I think you need a visa to do it). The photos on your mother’s memorial website shows it so well. The warmth of smiles is contagious and reminds me of your mother when we first met a half century ago. We’ll be back this summer and we’ll see you then. In the meantime, we’ll celebrate Meredith with a damn good wine.”
It is hard to imagine that so much life force has exited the world! Somehow, I have the feeling that her spirit is out there making keen observations with great style.
Peter and Meredith befriended us in 1985, prior to our move to Madison, when we were househunting. They reached out and created a friendship of 32 years. Typical…warm, inviting and having space for new friends in their already large circle and also having the ability to sustain and nourish a friendship over many years.
Some thoughts and memories:
Meredith was so smart, classy, funny and, as we know, had a great artistic sense. Their houses were always welcoming with the most beautiful, fun and inviting decor that reflected the fullness of their lives.
I came Boulder for a visit about 2 years ago. Meredith picked me up at the airport. “Don’t worry, you’ll recognize me, my hair is the same blue as my car!”
From the beginning, I loved talking to Meredith about the health care scene. It was a shared passion. Meredith was an astute observer with a sharp mind. We probably would have all done well if she ran the whole thing.
Meredith’s reach was vast. She believed that for academic physicians, their offices should be separated from their clinical space so they wouldn’t try to do their research when they were supposed to be caring for patients. A few years after she told me this, a medical school classmate (a pediatric intensivist and my former bridge partner) at Penn mentioned “someone moved my office 2 blocks from the ICU, now I’m just stuck in the ICU! I chuckled but didn’t let on that that someone was a good friend and that she made her point.
This was one awesome woman. Peter, Eli and Jess…I can only imagine your loss. I send your my condolences. I have also known you all for many years and know that you carry the spunk and love of life that were her trademarks.
My love to all, Susan”
“What a fantastic person!
I thoroughly enjoyed working alongside Meredith at Kurt Salmon. She was quick, passionate, and always kept me pushing to do my best. I’ll never forget the first time I met her. It was at her house while I was filling in on a project at the University of Wisconsin. About the first thing I try to do is sit on a piece of art that looked an awful lot like a chair….. I was fortunate to be able to work with her on a few projects and met with her a few times in Tucson after her retirement to give me advice which she was always willing to do. I will miss her and pray for you.”
-Luke C. Peterson
We have lost one of the good ones – one of the best. My aunt Meredith was so damn cool, so sharp, so hip and authentic. She always got the joke. Everything would be ok if Meredith was around because her perspective was so clear, optimistic, and novel. I’d like to believe in heaven if only to believe my mom and Meredith are going shopping with a cocktail in hand right about now.Some tidbits that stay with me for various reasons:
1. Last summer, Meredith and I took my 13 y.o niece shopping. This kid could make a trash bag look chic, all gorgeous dark hair and long limbs, with a personality for days. My niece came out of the dressing room in a tiny romper, glow-y tan, smiling expectedly at us, and Meredith just turns to me and goes “Well F_ck.” I mean, what an exquisite use of the English language and hilarious grasp of the injustice of age.
2. About 20 years ago, Jon and I stopped in Madison on our trip cross-country. Meredith and Peter were hosts extraordinaire. One night, late into evening talking on the couch, Meredith was sharing something going on with one of my cousins and explained nothing upset her “but the edges.” Meaning, there wasn’t a thing she’d judge or condone in their lives, but she wanted to hear the bulk of a problem versus just getting a sense of the edges. I always think of this with my own kids: just share the heart of the thing instead slowly revealing the jagged edges. Edges are harder to smooth.
3. A Meredith gem, shared in Boulder: Screw serving food hot for guests. Make it ahead, serve it lukewarm, and actually enjoy your guests’ company when they arrive. No one will give a shit.
4. Same trip in Boulder, I asked Meredith some deep, pretty personal questions about my parents. I think it would have been easiest to answer them in a way that allowed me to preserve my innocent, naive perspective of them. But Meredith explored what I was asking and why, considered the truth in all its layers, and then answered, trusting I was an adult asking an honest question in hopes of getting an honest answer. I wish I had told her that that talk allowed me to love my deceased parents so much more deeply and authentically, and I am so grateful.Meredith was all sorts of fantastic things – and always direct. I think when you are so fair and strong, you can always be honest because your intentions and words reflect your decency. I will truly miss that honesty, will miss all of Meredith actually, just knowing she was out there. I will miss observing the partnership between Meredith and Peter. It was one of brilliant, loving equals traveling the world, enjoying the day to day, and sharing their love with their community, family, and friends.I love you guys.”
‘I am fooling only myself when I say my Mom exists now only in the photograph on my bulletin board or in the outline of my hand or in the armful of memories I hold so tight. She lives on beneath everything I do. Her presence influenced who I was, and her absence influences who I am. Our lives are shaped as much by those who leave us as they are by those who stay. Loss is our legacy. Insight is our gift. Memory is our guide.’ We will miss you Meredith. Hugs.”
After reading many of the memories of Meredith I’m sorry I didn’t know sooner what an amazing, loving, giving, person she was, apart from the little bit I knew of her from our interactions at SVP meetings. I’m also sorry I didn’t meet her sooner and didn’t have longer to get to know her better, because I think that would have been a joy in my life as it was so obviously in the lives of everyone she touched. I’m sure she will be very much missed by everyone who knew and loved her, as well as by our community, which was very fortunate to have had her support for so many years. My heart and thoughts are with you all during this sad time of missing her and I trust so many of the memories are inspiring and happy that her legacy will be one of hope, love, and courage.
In peace and love.”
– Dianne Ladd
It has taken me two weeks to have the courage to say goodbye to you.
I am sitting here deeply saddened and still in shock at the loss of my friend. I simply cannot believe you are no longer here and we will no longer be holding hands.
My name is Cindy and I have provided manicures to Meredith for 20 years. One might think how odd that is to express missing holding hands of a friend, but it makes a connection have deeper meaning. Every two weeks for all of these years, with the exception of the few years Peter and Meredith were away from Boulder, I have gotten to dive into the life of Meredith. I loved her enthusiastic inquisitive and inclusive nature. She was profoundly passionate about life, family, friends business, people, travel, animals and her charitable work to the causes she loved. I marveled at how strong she remained through all of her health challenges. She showed grace and a beautiful form of dignity unlike I have ever seen. She consistently showed concern and interest in all details regarding my son and me. she offered sound advice every time I asked her opinion, and she was never judgmental. Meredith blessed me by calling me a good friend to her one of the last times I spoke with her. For this, I am profoundly grateful.
Meredith, I can’t believe I am saying goodbye to you for now. Thank you for everything you have added to my life. Thank you for calling me your friend and thank you most of all for being my friend.
Deepest sympathies for your loss Peter, Eli and Jessica.”
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most adaptable to change.”
You were my Darwinian hero – and I will miss you. My heartfelt condolences to Peter and your family.”
My clearest memories of Meredith are from my early college days.
Like many kids who all too willingly flee the shelter of home for the relative freedom of college, I quickly found that while I liked making some of my own rules, I felt too adrift without any family keeping me within bounds. Surely that is why I chose to attend University of Wisconsin* – Scott and Marie and Peter and Meredith were all there, holding it down for the Spears.
“The first time I ever met Meredith was in 1984 when my uncle Peter and she had recently begun seeing each other (or so I recall). It was in Columbia, MD and my grandfather Ivan Spear was close to the end of his life and family was coming in from all over to spend time with him. Peter brought Meredith and I remember that I was very curious to meet my uncle’s new girlfriend who was rumored to be quite smart, successful and independent. I was a 13 year old kid reading a book that was blowing me away; The Color Purple. I remember that this book was so different than anything I had ever read and it needed to be discussed. Meredith wanted to know what I was reading and engaged in a discussion with me, in a way that I wasn’t accustomed. With Meredith, I couldn’t just say “I love it”, I had to explain why and what the characters meant to me. The beauty of it though was that she listened and asked questions and gave me a voice. That I still remember this 34 years later, just shows what an impression she left on me.
Flash forward a few decades. It was January of 2000. I was going through a divorce and it happened my father and wife, Martha, had just had a baby that was very sick in the hospital in NH. Meredith was on business in the area and she asked me to meet for dinner. She was so incredibly supportive of me and what I was going through and was insistent upon going to see my little baby sister in the hospital. Now this little girl was no relation to Meredith, this was my dad’s child through a second marriage, but Meredith absolutely insisted that she go with me to visit Sarah. That moment of kindness was what I needed then and I’m not sure Meredith knew how much I appreciated it. It’s not lost on me that the recent years leading up to this time were also difficult years for Meredith and her health and I recall that she spoke so openly, that night at dinner, about her breast cancer and recovery and reconstructive surgery and I was left with this feeling that anything can be dealt with if one has enough courage. That may be the biggest gift she gave me.
One other, sort of funny, but not surprising story. When I was in grad school in 2000/2001, I found myself on a project with a team member who worked at Dartmouth Hitchcock Hospital in NH. One day, while meeting with the team, this student started telling a story about an amazing consultant who was working with her group in the hospital. She told this whole story about how the consultant was helping the hospital maximize their space in order to accommodate more patients without having to add more exam rooms. My classmate was so impressed because this woman told the doctors that one way they could accomplish the goal would be to actually have a reasonable amount of hours in their day devoted to patient office visits! Apparently this was something the rest of the staff said under their breath every day, but had never voiced out loud. Who was this legendary consultant? Ours truly; Meredith Spear. To say I was proud would be a huge understatement.
Meredith, you led an impressive life. You acted with passion in every area and you were strong and loving. When I think of women who made their mark, you are right up there at the top.”
Erika and I were heartbroken to hear about Meredith’s passing. She was a wonderful and uplifting friend. We marveled at her energy, thoughtfulness, success and generosity. I enjoyed talking with her from the first time we met in the late 1990’s. She was a welcoming and gracious host at your beautiful home on Baseline Road after you moved to Boulder. I missed you both when you moved back to Madison and then retired to Tucson. I was delighted when you moved back to Boulder, and Erika got to know both of you. Erika and I loved our dinners together. Erika especially enjoyed getting to know Meredith. Erika admired Meredith’s intelligence, experience, success, and great outlook on life. Getting to know Meredith helped Erika reflect on her own career, and recognize her own successes. We will both miss her very much.
Our thoughts and prayers are with you, Eli, Jess, Rowan and Tom”
-Paul Beale and Erika Gulyas
The first time I met you, I was transfixed by your hair, which seemed to me like a bold statement that could only be worn by a strong woman. I was right.
After you and Peter came back from your trips to Italy and then to Portugal and Spain, you invited me over to your house to tell me about the trips. And, when I came back from England, again you invited me over to hear about my adventure.
Each time you made both of us a delicious latte and motioned me to sit, always in the seat with the view – facing the magnificent Flatirons. Intrigued was the feeling sparked by this very interesting woman. Adjectives that best describe you – smart, irreverent, kind, generous, funny, direct, caring, trusting and always very fascinating. I chuckled when you’d throw in a salty word here and there.
Your love for Peter, Jessica, Eli and the fur babies, Rusty and Portia was evident. Beyond that, it was easy to discern your attraction to colorful flowers, wonderful art, choice cheeses, progressive politics, and bold trips around the globe. Upon learning of your death, a mutual friend described you as a “power house in the Boulder charitable community.” Isn’t it nice to learn when especially good things are said behind one’s back?
To learn that you died felt simultaneously like a kick in the gut and as if the rug had been pulled out from under me. I was looking forward to again sitting in the gazebo, sipping latte, reveling in stories of travel and in our mutual despair of the craziness going on around us and of getting to know you better.
After coming back from Washington, D.C., I was so excited to share the adventure. I knew you’d love hearing about it. I can see your expression, hear your laugh, and see you slowly shaking your head in approval as I related how many fine young women there were marching and of their tremendous energy. It’s a generation of women for whom you helped pave the way.
Thank you. Thank you for being an example of how wonderful a person can be.”
“Meredith changed my life.
I met Meredith when I was a graduate student at the University of Michigan. At the time, she was working at Wayne State University and I was interested in finding an actual “client” for my Architectural thesis project. I had set up a meeting with Meredith’s boss and he invited her to the meeting. That meeting became a turning point for me because I met Meredith.
Meredith became my client (for the thesis), graduate adviser, mentor and friend.
At our first meeting Meredith mentioned although she worked in Detroit, she actually lived in Ann Arbor and wondered if I could help move her from her Ann Arbor apartment to her new house on Manitou Court. I helped.
She officially became my thesis advisor and also worked with the faculty at the University of Michigan School of Architecture. The work she did at Michigan ultimately became the foundation of her consulting business, Space Diagnostics–but that was a few years later.
After Eli was born, I became Meredith’s “Official Photographer” and I recognize some of the photos on this memorial site as mine. Also, for the first time I will admit all the embarrassing baby pictures of Eli are mine too.
Meredith’s advice was invaluable in guiding me through my thesis and with Meredith’s guidance, I enrolled for a second Masters degree at Yale. Although I did not know it at the time, Meredith’s advise would be invaluable in guiding me through life.
After graduation, I joined an architectural practice in New York City and tried to bring Meredith in to as many of our projects as I could because she could analyze complex operational design problems better than anybody I knew–including me. One of our clients was the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer center where everybody is pretty much the world’s foremost authority in their areas of expertise. At the time I invited her to help on the Sloan Kettering project, Meredith was working for the Veterans’ Administration and consulting on the side. When I told the president of Sloan Kettering I was bringing in a consultant from the VA, he objected saying there was nothing in the VA that could be of interest to him or of value to Sloan Kettering.
Then he met Meredith.
After the meeting he continued to refer the “that very impressive lady” for many months. But, I already knew that about her.
Over the years, I tried to stay in touch but time and distance intervened and I have not seen Meredith for several years. However, I probably still think about her every day. Meredith inspired me to be the very best I could be. She had a great sense of humor and an intellect second to none.
I still think about that meeting at Wayne State University. The weather was poor and I hated driving to Wayne State because parking was impossible. But I went anyway and ended up meeting the most inspirational person I have ever know.
I am very sorry to hear of Meredith’s passing. I will miss her very much. I wish to express my condolences to Peter, Eli and Jessica. as well as her brother Ken.”
“The first time I met Meredith in the fall of 2015 we had a “blind date” for lunch. She had just become my New Partner Buddy at Social Venture Partners and it was our first meeting. Because neither of us knew what the other looked like I asked her to describe herself. She said “I have blue hair”. I remember pausing and thinking: She must mean blue, as in “old lady” blue hair, like my grandmother had after she went to the beauty parlor and got a blue rinse. Boy was I wrong about her hair color and more importantly about her having any hint of “old-lady-ness”.
Sadly, my friendship with Meredith was cut way too short. But my admiration and respect for her will last forever. Whenever we talked she always cut to the chase, pinpointing what was most important, discarding all of the superfluous rhetoric. She had wit, she had charm, she didn’t hesitate to tell me her opinion or mince words. Like the blue streaks in her hair, she was a true original.
I loved her smile and her laugh, which often had a mischievous bent.
Since the news of Meredith’s passing reached me I’ve been thinking about how best to honor her. I’ve decided to try to live an authentic life and to recommit to my desire to share whatever talent I have with others, to make my community a little more just, and treat others with the dignity they deserve. That’s my pledge to you Meredith, along with my thanks for being my friend and my Buddy.
And every time I eat one of your favorite cookies, a Pepperidge Farm Gingerman, I will think of you and smile.
“I have only recently come to know Meredith, only in the last two years. I wasn’t sure initially I would feel comfortable with her, but then there was this delicious night of getting to know her at an SVP (social venture partners) meeting where the late night speakers became such an unwanted intrusion. I have grown to respect Meredith tremendously, hanging on every word of her opinions and analysis of organizations and thriving in her belief of what we could accomplish. She inspired me! Her directness delighted me! I haven’t found many role models in my life and now I know how hard it is to lose one. She leaves a big empty space in my heart and at SVP lead partner meetings.”
“I’m sitting in an airport lounge (perhaps fitting given how much time she must have spent in them over the course of her career), and have retyped this note half a dozen times already. In part because I still haven’t digested the news of Meredith’s passing, but mostly due to the fact that I am constantly revising my sentence construction and punctuation because I don’t want Meredith frowning down on me from heaven!
(I’m still not convinced my previous sentence would receive her approval, but I’m going with it for now. For those of us lucky enough to spend time with Meredith at various KSA conferences, never forget “Eats, Shoots & Leaves”).
I was a wet-behind-the-ears consultant when I joined KSA in 2003. Meredith was the awe-inspiring Facilities practice leader with the flamboyant hair and intimidating intellect. I spent more than a decade with the firm, but the awe never faded. It remains one of my biggest regrets that over the course of my career at KSA, I never directly worked for her on a project. (I’m still scratching my head trying to figure out how that happened… I was on plenty of academic master planning engagements!) But despite that, she always took the time to call me, find out how I was doing and offer advice. Even after her retirement, she made it a point to stay in touch – and every six months or so we’d talk about all the crazy things happening in the academic medical center and children’s space that we both love.
I’ll miss having her around. I’ll miss our conversations. My heartfelt condolences to her family – she’ll be dearly missed.”
“I had the privilege of working with Meredith on a number of projects. Her intelligence was profound. She always had the right insight. And she suffered no fools. Her irreverence in just the right moments always kept us fresh and engaged. I’m sorry she’s gone. She was a bright light.”
“THANK YOU for all your amazing contributions to our community. It was a joy and pleasure to work along side you! You will be missed dearly by so many. Soar with the angels!”
“We have so many wonderful memories of Meredith—her sharp wit, her deep passion for social justice, her incredible business acumen, and her love of friends. We met Meredith when Peter became dean at CU and it was an “instant match.” Over our many dinners together, at parties and our ski weekends, Meredith’s laughter and generosity created a wonderful friendship that has lasted many years. From Boulder, to Madison, to Tucson and then back to Boulder again, Meredith was the bond that kept us together. We shared a love of family and values that enriched our lives. She was such an original thinker and a creative force in everything she did. We will miss you so much, dear Meredith, and we feel privileged to have had the pleasure and joy of your friendship.”
-Janet and Gary Jacobs
“Meredith and I met in our shared profession as advisors to academic medicine. She and Tom DeChant founded a successful firm and over time we merged and all became partners at Kurt Salmon Associates. Meredith became the first woman appointed as a national service leader, the first woman to serve on our global board and most importantly, we became friends. Among the many memories I have of Meredith, one has and always will stay with me.
Meredith was leading a visioning discussion of a large group of academic faculty leaders and challenged them to imagine how they would be world leaders, serve if you will in the vanguard of medicine over the coming decades. The subsequent discussion among the faculty was uninspired; incrementalism at best, with the status quo ruling. While Meredith was tactful as a professional, she wore her emotions plainly and growing impatience became evident in her demeanor. Still, patiently she persisted in prodding the group on, but to no avail. Finally, she leaned forward and broke into the uneventful dialogue.
“You are leaders in your field,” she intoned, pausing then to gather the attention of all in the room, “and I’ve just given you Dorothy’s Ruby Red Slippers and with these you may travel anywhere in the world!” With full command now, exasperated, “and are you really telling me all you’re going to do is go to Kansas?!” With this the entire inflection of the discussion shifted to bigger aims and contribution and importantly did so in an inspired, positive and hopeful way.
This was Meredith Spear: insightful, brilliant, candid and creative in ways words cannot do justice. She was truly one-of-a-kind.
A few years ago walking through the Kansas City airport, my eye caught a white shirt in the gift shop emblazoned with a brilliant glittering set of ruby slippers, totally Meredith and aptly titled, “Dorothy’s” I bought it and placed it in my drawer at home intending to send it along to Meredith as a holiday gift. Well, the time flew and I never got around to it. Now I’ll just keep it as it’s been, reminding me of her.
Farewell my friend, safe travels! I’d love to know where you asked your Ruby Slippers to take you, but no matter where you’ve ventured, it’s better place for you being there.
I miss you. ”
– Mark Wietecha
-Robert and Lorraine Kelley
“When I first met Meredith, some 40 years ago, she was a hippy!! She was single, working for an Ann Arbor architectural firm as a student intern…. testing the waters, so to speak, since she was planning to get her PhD. in architecture. I was married, had 4 children, was 10 years her senior and had recently completed a masters degree in public health. Unlike Meredith, I was a late bloomer. I was also a “proper Bostonian”, in other words, a total square. Against all odds, we became best friends.
The first project we worked on together was designing a health care facility inside of Jackson Prison, which was the largest walled prison in the world at the time. Together, Meredith and I designed a facility where basic health care could be provided at the prison. It had to be secure in terms of prison needs but also safe for physicians who came to provide services. We were pretty proud of our plan but before it could go forward, we had to present it to the Director of the State prison system, his assistant directors and the wardens of every one of the many Michigan prisons. Talk about a bunch of macho men who could barely stand the idea of two women coming to their meeting . Actually, the Director of the prison system was an enlightened, wonderful man; the rest, not so much. So, here I am in my proper navy blue suit, as tailored as could be, trying to make my best first impression. And there’s my dear friend Meredith, who shows up in her jean jacket and slacks…..pantsuits were not “in” back then. I was aghast !But the thing is, she was so damn brilliant that as soon as she opened her mouth, they all had to listen. Happened every time. It was a joy to watch. I’ve also been known to say that she was the best bull shitter you ever want to meet.
Eventually, Meredith decided against going for a PhD in architecture but then she told me about her next best idea. She wanted to have a baby. OK, said I, but you aren’t married. Didn’t I say that I was a naïve square? Well, said she, she thinks she needs to get pregnant now because pretty soon she’ll be too old and besides, she had worked it all out. I was flabbergasted, of course, but Meredith taught me sooooo many things. Indeed, she did arrange it all, quite brilliantly, and soon gave birth to wonderful-beyond-words Eli, whom we all adore.
We were so thrilled when she met you Peter in Madison,WI. Enter Meredith, all grown up but still her own person, the gracious and charming wife of the Chairman/Dean/ Provost/ at the University of Wisconsin and also the brilliant health care consultant. You guys were such an incredible couple. Meredith was also a wonderful mentor to our youngest daughter, Susan, who was fortunate enough to work for Meredith for several years at Space Diagnostics and then Kurt Salmon. She taught her how to write and Sue knew she had arrived when she finally turned in a report and Meredith had no corrections.”
My thoughts and prayers are with you all”
I admired her poise, her grace and her dignity….her intensity…. We were both trying to define this new chapter called “retirement”…. we laughed, we lunched, we hosted a few fabulous New Year’s Eve parties…we raised cockapoos together….Harley and Velo….we shopped…Meredith loved to dress me…she even gave me some of her wardrobe items (oh, Giff, they will look better on you !)… I marveled at her generous Heart…. we shared a common Philosophy of Life….. And then she moved away….HOW DARE SHE !!!!
But being the devoted Friend that she is, we succeeded in keeping our long distance Friendship strong….. Ron and I shared a lovely Summer visit with Peter and Meredith in Boulder…. And a fabulous Rocky Mountaineer Train ride from Vancouver, BC
to Lake Louise and Banff…..
Every year at New Year’s, I choose a word to focus on for the rest of the year. This year, I chose PASSION…… How can I up the anti in my Passion for Life ? There are so many areas to practice this Passion including Family, Friends, my Volunteer work, travel….and, whatever else that might evolve. For all of us who knew and loved Meredith, we know that she was “fiercely passionate” in most every area of her Life.
Little did I know that I chose a word that will now be practiced in memory of Meredith…..I will emulate Meredith as I follow my journey of Passion
Thank you, Jess and Eli for such a beautiful photo journal of a …..Life Well Lived…..
RIP, my Dear Friend, Meredith….I can only hope to see you on the other side.
I Love You !”
Meredith taught me about the potentials of women. She was a role model in so many ways. She taught me about charity, beautiful clothes, and where to find good coffee in the most obscure places. She encouraged me to show my voice. When she took me on a tour of Bridge House, I returned to Vermont to get involved with our local shelter. Her enthusiasm was contagious. Her heart was immeasurable.
I watched Meredith go through more medical procedures than anyone I know; more than anyone should have to. And yet she took the ups and downs with determination and without complaint. Meredith taught me how to approach life’s hardships with courage and dignity. She was the first woman I ever met with a tattoo! Now I have one too.
It is not just that I am witnessing my brother’s loss and pain, not just understanding Jessica and Eli’s bereavement, it is the loss of my sister that I grieve. Your memory will live with me forever. I loved you Meredith and I have comfort knowing you loved me.”
– Nina (Spear) Salvatore
– Roger Rapoport
– Judy and Ben Sidran
Meredith was a private woman, yet outspoken about what mattered to her. Bold and daring, yet sensitive to nuance and individuality. A friend with the capacity to be brutally forthright, yet tenderly loving. A person who cared deeply about the human condition, and found ways to make an impact that transformed the lives of those she touched. Never one to stand on ceremony, she invested her time, her energy, and her love in ways that connected deeply with everyone. She had an extraordinary authenticity that never waivered, and perhaps was the reason so many people who knew her felt her advocacy and support.
I can honestly say that my entire sense of community in Boulder extends from that introduction to Meredith 5 years ago. Although she will no longer be with us, the extent of her reach will live on in all of her friends who love her so much.
My dear friend Meredith, I love you…I miss you!!”
Meredith was inclusive, warm and generous. I so enjoyed (and will grealty miss) our gin on the rocks together. Two olives, please.
For me Meredith was the definition of steadfast and kind.”
There is a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote that describes Meredith’s life so much better than I can:
‘To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.’
You succeeded, my friend. I only wish it had taken you a little longer to do it.”
Meredith always let us all come in. I always felt she did her best to make everyone comfortable in any situation. So, one more thing. We went out to dinner and Cammy, as often, didn’t touch much food, but she was standing quietly at the outdoor table where we were seated. Meredith said to her, “You know what you are? You are poised.” Neither Cammy nor I was sure what that meant. Meredith explained that she was able to stand still and wasn’t running around all the time. Well, that’s not exactly the granddaughter I know, but it was one of the sweetest things anyone had ever said to Cammy, at least while I was listening.
I wanted Cammy to see mountains for the first time in her life (we live in Ohio) so Peter and Meredith happily obliged. There we are! At least my sister looks good. This location is very close to a part of the mountain where my parent’s ashes are spread. It is my understanding that Meredith may join them there. We will see. Every time I look at the pictures on this site I start to cry. Some of the tears are sad, but many are tears of joy. Thank you, Eli and Jess for putting this together for all of us.”
When they moved away from Thorstrand to Lake Monona, we still did Friday Night Friends (and now so do our daughters and Jessi and Tom who are all in Seattle). Peter and Hawk and I were allowed only a few minutes about University issues, then we had to talk about something way more interesting.
She was such a good sport!!! Just so great. She really didn’t like sailing trips and was often down below in big blows. Sometimes she was on the bus…(not really, she always stuck it out). She was there every time. I loved that about her.
I loved a lot about her. She was so so smart but never condescending. So cool but never better than anyone else, except she really was. I loved her style, her beautiful clothes, her hair (which I copy) and her makeup (both my daughters and I still only use Trish). I will especially miss the laughter, the wide open mouth laughter because we found a lot to laugh about.
When they moved to Boulder we were devastated. We visited them almost every year, but so so happy when they came back to Madison. Meredith asked me to help them find their Madison house and we did! We were so honored that they chose the one we picked for them, and then we had Friday Night Friends again!
We retired the same year, moved away from Madison the same year, but still saw Peter and Meredith at least once a year. We did a couple more trips with them, so glad we did that New Zealand one! But so busy with our distillery we didn’t spend enough time in Boulder. So glad that the last time we saw Meredith was at the Willows at an amazing dinner we shared with Barbara and Luke.
Thank you Meredith for giving me Barbara, it helps a little to have her. But no one could ever replace you, I miss your sweet beautiful mind, your kindness, your incredibly interesting personality, how much you loved your Peter and your wonderful children.”
– Lynne Troup
-Emily and Dave
Well, that’s a bit of Meredith the wise teenager and great sister. I will check in later. My heart and prayers go out to all. We are missing a remarkable woman.”
– Kenny Eiker
Mer was the first person to do my horoscope (I still have it.) and she told me I was going to live my life in public. I went on to have a Broadway career and am hugely active still after more than 50 years. She introduced me to tarot, which became a very large and important part of my life 20 years later, becoming friends and teaching with world class tarot luminaries like Mary Greer and Rachel Pollack. She gave me my favorite ever birthday gift when we were both living in Cambridge Mass. An orange tee shirt with a photo and caption that said : “Lenny Bruce died for our sins.”
She encouraged me to write which I have been doing ever since. . I still have her letters from those way back years in her amazingly distinctive handwriting.
We both played flute in the Byron Jr. High School band when we met. That’s when I knew flute playing was cool. I wanted to sing and she wanted me to. I left the flute behind and joined the high school choir.
Decades later when I had to become a wig wearer, she gave me the Frederick Fekkai, personally styled wig she wore when she fought breast cancer.
God, she was smart and generous of spirit and I am so lucky that she shared some of that with me.
RIP Meredith Eiker Spear, Shaker Heights High School class of ’64.”