Eleanor “Skip” Meury
Minister’s wife, activist, tireless correspondent
Eleanor Hoblin “Skip” Meury died on August 24, 2012 at the Mt. San Antonio Gardens Health Center, surrounded by loved ones. She was 93.
Ms. Meury was born on March 15, 1919 in Brooklyn, New York to Hazel Brown and Lester Greatbach Hoblin. Her father was one of the owners of Tuttle Roofing in New York City, a company that worked on iconic landmarks such as the Empire State and Chrysler buildings. Ms. Meury earned her nickname early on for her tireless energy—she seemed to skip rather than walk. The moniker stuck, as did her high vitality, and she would be called “Skip” throughout her life.
After graduating from Roosevelt High School in Crestwood, New York, Ms. Meury attended the McDowell School of Fashion Design in New York City. As her life evolved, marriage and family became Ms. Meury’s primary focus, but she remained a stylish dresser and a fine seamstress who once sewed her best friend’s wedding gown.
She met her husband when she was president of her church youth group in Mt. Vernon, New York and had the responsibility to introduce the Rev. Edward William Meury to its membership. The couple had a whirlwind romance and married on June 26, 1942. Ms. Meury gave birth to their first son the following year.
Rev. Meury served as a UCC minister for a number of churches over the years. He began his career with a congregation in Port Jervis, New York. As a conscientious objector in World War II, he also took on the ministry of a number of outlying churches whose pastors were stationed overseas.
After the war, Rev. Meury continued to serve congregations across the country at churches in Keene, New Hampshire, Wellesley, Massachusetts, Durham, New Hampshire, Boulder, Colorado and locally in Claremont. Their family grew along with Rev. Meury’s resume, as the couple had 2 more daughters in 1945 and 1954 and another son in 1950.
Ms. Meury was active in her children’s lives, attending their extra-curricular events and serving as den mother when her boys were in Scouts. Dinner was a special time of vigorous discussion, with the table serving as the center of intellectual life in the family.
Ms. Meury strived to pass on her love of reading, art and travel to her children. Some of the earliest memories of her son, Jonathan “Spike” Meury, are of family visits to various museums in New York. His mother thought nothing, he said, of taking a 4- or 5-year-old to a classical music concert.
Ms. Meury balanced family with an extraordinary level of activity in support of her husband and his congregations. “She was the epitome of a minister’s wife in the old school in that she cared for everybody,” Ms. Meury’s longtime friend Jim Merrill said. “She spent an awful lot of time in service to others—she was special.”
Ms. Meury provided coffee and baked goods at church gatherings and presided over potlucks armed with homemade dishes like chicken and dumplings. A renowned correspondent, Ms. Meury also helped her husband keep in contact with his past congregants. She sent letters to people she’d met in all stages of her life, from grade school friends to newer acquaintances, and had an uncanny memory for birthdays. Each year, she created elegant pen-and-ink drawings to accompany the family Christmas card, which she reproduced and sent all over the country.
Ms. Merrill’s service to those in her congregation and community wasn’t limited to cards and casseroles. Rev. Meury’s time as minister of the Claremont United Church of Christ (CUCC), which spanned from 1963 to 1970, coincided with a great deal of national and local upheaval.
Like her husband, Ms. Meury, a staunch Democrat, was deeply involved in an array of issues, from the Civil Rights movement to the peace movement of the Vietnam War era to gay rights.
“Skip wanted very much for people to be loved and recognized in whatever gown they came out in,” her friend Louise Bell emphasized.
The Meurys notably traveled to Mississippi with a delegation of protestant ministers to help oversee voter registration when black citizens there were experiencing de facto disenfranchisement. They were also instrumental in helping Myrlie Evers relocate to Claremont after her husband, Civil Rights leader Medgar Evers, was shot by a sniper in 1963.
Rev. Meury helped initiate a 7-step program at the Chino prison, with participants ranging from men preparing for release, looking for support as they integrated back into society, to those serving life sentences. Either way, Ms. Meury, who stood only 5’2” to Mr. Meury’s 6 feet, was unfazed.
“Skip would be in a room with these hardened criminals and she’d really push them to tell the truth about what they had done,” her friend Mary Jane Merrill recalled. “She’d say, ‘Are you telling me the truth or are you conning me?’ Behind her back, these tough prisoners would call her ‘the little general.’”
“They were a great team,” Mr. Merrill said of the Meurys. “Skip was a dynamic little woman. Oh golly, she could out-walk anybody, right up into her 80s.”
Even after Rev. Meury’s retirement in 1980 and his death in 1987, Ms. Meury continued to be active in many causes dear to her heart. A firm supporter of water conservation and a volunteer at the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Gardens, Ms. Meury was proud of having converted her front yard to native plants when she was in her 70s. Her creative and water-wise landscaping landed her on the garden tour of the Botanic Gardens.
Ms. Meury also volunteered as a caregiver with Inland Hospice for many years. “She was just determined to help people cope with their deaths,” Ms. Bell shared. “She was such a thoughtful and loving person. We miss her a lot.”
Though she kept herself busy with various causes, Ms. Meury never forgot family. She picked up her granddaughters every day after school at Sycamore School. At her home, they spent weeks making doll houses, mud pies and blanket forts, which she allowed to be kept up for months at a time in her living room. She also brought home their other friends and read classic books such as The Little Prince to them. Her grandchildren fondly remember her popsicles, lemonade and cinnamon toast.
The woman everyone called Skip exuded exceptional energy up to her final months.
“I kind of call her a mighty mouse,” Ms. Merrill said. “She was very small in stature, but she was huge in character and perseverance and caring about other people.”
Ms. Meury was predeceased by her brother, Lester, and by her husband, Edward. She is survived by her sister, Florence, and her brother, Richard; by her son and daughter-in-law, Jonathan “Spike” and Tracy Meury, of Claremont; by her daughter, Margaret “Peggy” Richieri of San Diego; by her son, Paul Meury, and his fiancé Mary Skelton of Olympia, Washington; by her daughter and son-in-law, Sarah and Aaron Liston of Corvallis, Oregon; by her grandchildren, Gabrielle and Louisa Meury of Claremont; and by numerous nieces and nephews.
Ms. Meury donated her body to science. Her memorial service will be held on Sunday, October 21, 2012 at 2 p.m., in the Kingman Chapel at Claremont United Church of Christ, Congregational. There will be a reception following the service.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the CUCC Another Voice, to the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden or t