Eldon Marne "Mike" Meyer, former principal of Monterey Heights School in the 1970s, superintendent of the Jamul School District in the 1960s, survivor of the Battle of Tarawa, poet, memoirist, devotee of history, and an American of whom we are so proud, died on Saturday. He was 91.
Mike enlisted in the Marines during World War II and was a Purple Heart recipient. Following the war, he moved to San Diego after falling for a young woman, his beloved Frances, whom he met at church while on leave.
A longtime resident of Lemon Grove, he was loved by his family and community alike. No one was a stranger for long after meeting Mike. He was gracious with words of wisdom and quick to reach out to others.
At a 2010 SDSU class reunion, Mike and Frances chanced to meet a former Lemon Grove resident, Arden Dunton and his wife, Peggy. Arden's childhood in Lemon Grove, as the grandson of Dr. Charles Good, builder of the famous Grove Pastry Shop building in 1912, led to meetings with the Lemon Grove Historical Society and the subsequent mounting of a large museum exhibit about the Good family, which has just concluded a two-year run. This would not have happened without Mike's forthcoming manner and generosity of spirit.
A career educator, Mike earned his PhD while dedicating himself to a life of faith, service and his favorite sport, baseball. He was the president of California Chapter of the Second Marine Division Association and an active member of the Lemon Grove United Methodist Church.
He twice addressed the Lemon Grove Historical Society on the Battle of Tarawa, bringing audiences to their feet. As a 22-year-old Marine, Tarawa was where, Mike wrote, "We found our version of hell. About 12,000 Marines, Corpsmen and Navy men stormed that square mile of fiercely defended atoll, Nov. 20-24, 1943. It took three days to win it, far short of the hundred years promised by the Japanese.
"Nearly all 5,000 defenders died in a no-surrender defense, along with over 1,000 Marines. There were also over 2,000 wounded. Now, aging like us, our Tarawa, along with other battles, has lost significance outside military circles. But this we know, the tactics and equipment we learned and tested there have served America well in its more recent confrontations around the world ... We won Tarawa, a little bit of sandy nothing halfway between Hawaii and Northern Australia, in the name of America and freedom. Semper Fi."
The horror of Tarawa never left him. His 2009 poem, "Talking With God on the Ocean," recalled a moment on the ship en route to the atoll, "lonely in a crowded sea of men," when a frightened young Marine, Bob, asked him how to pray:
Say thanks to Him for the days of your life.
Tell your sorrows for things gone astray.
Eyes closed to pray for Bob and me,
For God be with us on our battle day.
Morning brought chaos, bedlam in changing
Our safety of the larger ship at sea
To ride those little boats to shore,
I heard my name—Bob waved to me.
Mike is survived by his wife of 64 years, Frances; his younger brother and sister, Wayne and Kittie in Michigan; three daughters, Martha Ann (Gil), Meredith (Tim) and Linda (Dan); six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Friday at , where donations can be sent in lieu of flowers.
Please sign the guest book at www.conradlemongrove.com.
Rest, rest, old friend.