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Quiet legacies

Published October 30. 2010 09:00AM

It's a sunny spring morning in the late 1950s. I'm 8 years old, and, arms outstretched to keep my balance, I'm jumping from tie to tie along the rails of the tracks that run through my small home town. Inky, a black Labrador Retriever, ambles along beside me.

A few feet behind me, Harriet strolls along, twirling Inky's leash and keeping an ear out for the thrumming warning of an oncoming train. Harriet is middle-aged; she and her husband have no children of their own, but Harriet is a magnet for neighborhood kids.

Kids like me, and Marylou and Reese and Gary. Kids for whom home was no refuge.

Harriet didn't have to lend a sympathetic ear, give sound advice, make cookies and lemonade for impromptu backyard picnics or share her twice-daily dog walks along the railroad tracks with a bunch of attention-hungry kids.

Harriet was an angel, one of those people who quietly forego hours to themselves to make the world a better place for others. Their good works create a pool of kindness that passes from one recipient to another, a beatific virus.

They deflect applause, avoid the spotlight. It's not about them.

But sometimes, lost in the daily tsunami of minutia that inundates our lives, we lose sight of the Harriets of the world, the angels who work behind the scenes to make the world a better place for us all.

One of those angels quietly slipped from our lives five years ago.

Richard "Dick" Meiser could have spent his free time relaxing on the sofa, watching television and resting from his work as an environmental health and safety manager at Air Products, the family Christmas tree farm and at his beverage store.

Instead, Meiser gave up that free time to make his community a better place to live and to guide a younger generation to better lives through higher education and fulfilling careers. And he did it all while remaining a devoted husband to his wife, Eileen, and father to his sons, Darren, Dean and Devin.

Active in his beloved Zion Stone Church, Dick sang in the choir; he was not among those who strut through life singing in the key of "me."

I got to know Dick when I had a small advertising agency in the 1980s. In addition to informally mentoring business novices, he served on Air products' Citizens Advisory Panel and its Community Day program committee. He served on the Manufacturers Association of Schuylkill County (he had been president, and was chairman at the time of his death on Jan. 29, 2005).

The church reaped the bounty of Dick's boundless energy. He served as Sunday school superintendent and teacher, served on the church board, of which he was vice president, and helped create the church constitution.

His good friend and fellow congregant Bob Miller worked with Dick on the four-person committee that crafted the melding of the church's Lutheran and Reform congregations.

"I was more the mechanic - the others were the spiritual leaders, Dick being one them," Miller said. "Dick was a very caring individual. He was a very spiritual individual. It's easy to use the word 'dedicated'. He was very responsive. He had a very sincere desire for the West Penn - Tamaqua area to grow and provide a good life for the people who live here."

Miller spoke of Dick's work to purchase and install a multimedia system in the church, a dream that was fulfilled this year with a generous contribution from the Meiser family.

But in keeping with the character of those angels who walk among us, Dick shied away from accolades.

"He was very forward in his thinking in a meeting, but when the applause was given, he would always step to the background," Miller said.

Dick Meiser, as did Harriet, left quiet legacies that will resonate for generations, as angels do.

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