Oscar Meyer driving force for much of Madeira’s history

By Regina Villiers. Originally published August 31, 1994 in The Suburban Life, added August 14, 2015.

Oscar M. Meyer, according to his friends, has always been a great friend to Madeira.

Oscar M. Meyer, according to his friends, has always been a great friend to Madeira.


These days, he’s a reticent man when it comes to talking to you about himself.  He’ll tell you loads of stories about other people, but he’s modest and reluctant to talk about his own life.

“You don’t want to write about me,” Oscar Meyer told me almost two years ago.  “There’s no story there.”

But there is a story there, and Oscar Meyer’s friends know it.  When seven of them met one evening recently on Doug Oppenheimer’s back deck to tell me about Oscar, the stories flowed in numbers to equal the katydids’ calls in the nearby trees.

They told of a man who once was a top businessman in Madeira, heading up the George Meyer Co. He was a driving force in Madeira’s progress over the years, promoting and helping to build the town at every turn.  And he still would win the “Mr. Madeira” title in a heartbeat if an election for the title were held.  Oscar has been around a lot of years, and lots of people know him.

During World War II, Oscar and his wife, Charlotte, wrote and mailed out a hometown newsletter, “Sawdust and Shavings,” to Madeira soldiers all over the world.  When the soldiers came home after the war, Oscar didn’t forget about them.  He helped them start new lives as civilians.

Dick and Hazel Valentiner told how he helped them in a business way, as the young couple got their lives going successfully.  “I’ve known him since day one,” Dick said.

Russell Ward, a retired Madeira policeman, has also known Oscar all his life.  “My family knew his family,” Russ said, and then told stories about Oscar that have become almost legendary.

Judy Morrow told how her family lived near the Meyers when she was a child.  “I was a pesty kid who’d go over there just to hang out, but they were so nice to me.  Sometimes, Charlotte would give me a job to dust the long, spiral staircase in their home.  The best way to dust the railing was to slide down it.  It was a great ride.”

When Judy got to be 17, she went to work for Oscar at the George Meyer Co., where she worked for many years.

Marti Hurst has also known Oscar for a long time, but she’s also one of his best friends today.  Since Oscar now lives in Blue Ash, and she now lives in Montgomery, it’s easy for her to visit him.  “Sometimes, I pop in just for five minutes,” she said.

She also takes him to lunch now and then and takes the Suburban Life Press to him every week.  He now lives out of the area to receive this column, and he just has to read it every week.  When Marti goes to Florida in the winter, she arranges for someone to get the paper to him.  Last winter, I mailed it to him myself while she was away.

“Marti’s great,” he told me.  “She’s a good paper boy.”

Dr. P.B. Johnston, a longtime Madeira veterinarian who owns the Madeira Veterinary Hospital, has known Oscar since 1943 and still sees him three or four times a month.  They go out to lunch regularly, and they also get haircuts together.

Dr. Johnston has a lot of horse stories about Oscar.  He first met Oscar through the Madden family who were good friends of the Meyer family.  Oscar, Dr. Madden and Dr. Johnston always rode their horses in the parades.  “They always led the parade,” Dr. Johnston laughed, “and I had to bring up the rear.”

He remembers one parade that 35 horses in it.  “There were lots of funny things,” he said, remembering it all.  “There are always funny things when you have horses in a parade.”

Doug Oppenheimer, who volunteered to host and to organize this gathering of Oscar’s friends, wanted to stress the good things that Oscar has done for Madeira.

“He was a driving force in building the community,” Doug said.  “For example, he helped start the first pharmacy.  He loved this community and the whole area, and he was always doing good things for somebody.”

Doug also told a story about taking Oscar, in recent years, for a long ride through Madeira and Indian Hill so that Oscar could relate some of the history of the area.  “He had a story for every intersection,” Doug said.  “He’s a sharp man.”

After the ride, they came back to Doug’s house for more talk and visiting.  The Oppenheimer dog, Spencer, jumped up on Oscar’s chair and started to lick his face in welcome.

Soon after, Oscar started looking around his chair and announced he’d lost his hearing aid.

“At that very moment,” Doug said, “I heard a sickening ‘crunch-crunch’ come from under the couch, and I knew what had happened.  Spencer had pulled the hearing aid out of Oscar’s ear and was eating it.”

Despite all the laughter that evening, Oscar’s friends, in remembering him, painted a picture of a caring man who has never stopped caring for his community.

“The important thing to remember,” Dr. Johnston said, “is that he was important to everything and everybody in this community.  And he didn’t want publicity about it.”

“He was a behind-the-scenes man,” Doug added.  “He’d help you out, and you never had to know about it.”

Maybe he didn’t want publicity, and maybe he still doesn’t.  But shouldn’t we let him know how much he’s appreciated? Shouldn’t he know how much pleasure and laughter he gives to his friends, after all these years, when they gather just to talk on a late summer’s evening?

I think we should tell him.