by Cori Hilsgen
Leander Meyer has had the chance to be in the annual July Fourth parade several times before and could share many stories, but this year he will have a special place in the parade lineup.
The St. Joseph Lions Club recently announced he will be the grand marshal of the upcoming July Fourth parade.
Meyer was nominated to be this year’s grand marshal by Jim Kuebelbeck.
“He has been a contributing member of the community for many years,” Kuebelbeck said.
Meyer said he was surprised about his role in this year’s parade.
“It’s a big honor,” he said. “I hope it’s a good day and not raining or a cold wind blowing.”
Meyer, 97, and a lifelong resident of St. Joseph can recall many stories about past July Fourth festivals and parades and even remembers the parade being canceled due to rain.
As a past chairperson of the Church of St. Joseph July Fourth parish festival for more than 25 years, he knew much about the workings of the festival and parade.
With all the planning and preparation it took to put on the parish festivals, he said he always took a week off to help prepare for the festival.
Meyer has watched the annual parade for many years. Other past times when he was in the parade include he and his wife, Dolores (now deceased), being honored as the Senior King and Queen and another time was when the two square danced with their group the “Gad-Abouts” on a hayrack. The two were square dancers for about 20 years. Still another time, he rode in a car in the parade.
Meyer attended a one-room area schoolhouse until the eighth grade. He and Dolores met at a dance and were married 61 years. They operated a small 159-acre dairy farm in the area, on which he said they never milked more than 20 cows. In fact, he can see the barn and a silo from his current residence.
Besides working on his farm, Meyer built cabinets when his seven children, three girls and four boys, were old enough to help on the farm. He farmed from 1950-1975. When he quit farming, he began building clocks.
He currently has two of those clocks on display at his residence in Serenity Place on 7th in St. Joseph. A black walnut grandfather clock and an oak mantel clock, which both chime the Westminster chime together.
He began building the clocks after seeing a photo of and reading about the grandfather clock in a magazine. He sent for the plans and movement to build one.
The first clock he built in 1976 is the grandfather clock he now hears chiming in his residence. Meyer donated a clock to a past parish festival and built others for material costs and they were raffled off at the festival.
He said it took him about two weeks, with him working many hours each day, to build the first clock and about a week to build the other clocks.
Through the years, he said he believes he built about 25 clocks. He made a grandmother clock, shorter than a grandfather clock but with the same top design, for each of his children.
He and Dolores winter vacationed in Apache Junction, Arizona, for about 35 years and he built mantel clocks there. Meyer said he and his wife were always ready to travel to Arizona when the first snowflakes fell. He continued to vacation there until recently and said they always enjoyed the “wonderful climate” there.
Meyer also served as a St. Joseph Township Clerk for 14 years, was on the Stearns Electric Board of Directors and was a former St. Joseph Lion member until his wife became ill.
Meyer enjoys listening to old-time music such as the Whoopee John Band, the Deutschmeisters and many other entertainers. He has several compact discs which he gets hours of listening enjoyment from.
Meyer can recall when dances were held on two floors at the St. Joseph Catholic School to help pay off the building debt and remembers Whoopee John playing there.
He also attends group exercise at his residence and walks outdoors with companions.
Oldest man in St. Joseph?
Meyer and Kuebelbeck said they believe Meyer is the oldest man currently living in St. Joseph. Having lived in St. Joseph all of his life, Meyer said he “didn’t want to go anyplace else.”
However, he does wonder if so much current growth is good for the city and doesn’t like the higher taxes.
Meyer said at his age and living with a heart pacemaker he lives one day at a time but plans to be at the upcoming parade.
He believes many of his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren will be attending the parade to watch him being honored as the grand marshal.
The St. Joseph Lions Club organizes the annual parade which is scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday, July 4, in St. Joseph.