Walter Meyer leaves 'stuffed' legacy of leadership, service
TOWNSHEND — Walter Meyer, who for decades led the stuffed toy company his mother created and stayed dedicated to his community throughout his life, died Saturday at the age of 87.
"Walter was our father, our inspiration, our light and the positive force in our daily lives," Mary Meyer Toys posted on its Facebook page.
His mother Mary started the company in New York City in 1933 and moved it to Townshend in the early 1940s. She died in 1999 at the age of 94.
Steven Meyer, vice president of design at Mary Meyer Toys and one of Walter's six children, said his father had been in declining health for the last several months.
"His body just gave out," he said.
Dealing in wholesale orders, Mary Meyer Toys ships to places such as Amazon, L.L. Bean and Nordstrom, as well as mom and pop shops nationwide and in several other countries. The company employs about 40 people in Townshend.
Walter "was instrumental in sustaining Mary Meyer's consistent growth from 1955 to 1990, when his sons really took over running the business," Steven said. "Probably what he was best at was design and manufacturing. But he was a natural salesman, too."
Steven said he and his brothers Michael, Peter and Kevin are "very active" in the business. Another brother and a sister live in the Burlington area.
Walter also was survived by Elaine Meyer, his wife of 62 years, and 18 grandchildren. He had served on school boards governing Townshend Elementary School and Leland & Gray Union Middle and High School, the Townshend Select Board and the town's board of listers.
Walter was a member of the Brattleboro and Vermont chambers of commerce. He helped found the Townshend Business Association.
Walter was an emergency medical technician and an ambulance driver for Grace Cottage Hospital.
"He was instrumental in organizing Grace Cottage Fair Day every summer," Steven said. "He was instrumental in starting the Townshend Pumpkin Festival."
Walter graduated from L&G Seminary in 1949 then went on to graduate from University of Vermont in 1953. Drafted into the Army, he was stationed in Germany.
Asked what the family would miss most about Walter, Steven said, "I think it would just be his positive outlook on life, his constant curiosity."
He noted Walter was running a website and teaching himself search-engine optimization at the age of 86.
"I'm not kidding," Steven said. "He was constantly reading about business, about technology.
He did a lot of soul searching. He read books on the life of Jesus and spirituality."
Work was Walter's life, Stevens said.
"He never really retired. That's both good and bad, right? But the one hobby he had outside of work besides reading was artwork."
Walter was known for his local landscapes done in pen-and-ink. He also would work in oil paints.
"He wasn't a sports fan or a hunter or too much of a fisherman," Steven said. "He didn't love his hot rods. He loved work and family and his church and art."
Steven thanked his father's longtime private caregiver Paula Newton and the staff at Grace Cottage for their support.
The Facebook post says that Walter "was surrounded by family during his last weeks and passed away peacefully." Commenters described him as "very nice," "wonderful," "great," "special," "lovely" and more.
"He was a great influence in my life and gave many people their first jobs in the valley," one person wrote.
Walter considered the work of creating stuffed toys "a lot of fun."
"I love it," he said in a video on marymeyer.com. "As a young man, I learned by taking toys apart how they went together and how by sewing the ears in slightly differently, you got them to turn or whatever ... Once you've learned the basics then you figure out how to make it more complicated or more beautiful by adding pieces that are different colors."
A funeral will be held 11 a.m. Saturday at Our Lady of the Valley Catholic Church in Townshend. A wake is scheduled for 4 to 6 p.m. Friday at Atamaniuk Funeral Home in Brattleboro.
Reach staff writer Chris Mays at email@example.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.
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