Shirley Meyer [1922-2013]; Activist gave to MCC, arts in Monroe


Shirley Meyer, who had a great love of the arts and gave generously to Monroe Community College, died Friday at the IHM Motherhouse Health Care Center in Monroe. She was 91.

“She was there for three and a half months, and she was in declining health,” said her son, Michael Meyer, who lives in Lasalle, Mich.

Mr. Meyer said his mother knew it was the “end of the road,” and she faced it straightforward and honestly.

“She was very much at peace. She would say I’m ready to go see your dad and my parents. About 3:30 in the afternoon, I had the window cracked in her room, and she flew away,” said Mr. Meyer.

Mr. Meyer said he was extremely touched when a few minutes after his mom died, they rang the bell in the facility, a honor usually reserved for the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

“I was on the phone with my sisters in Colorado telling them that mom passed, and I heard the bell, and it gave me chills,” he said.

Mrs. Meyer was a leader in the Monroe community and a philanthropist. Her $1 million donation to the Foundation at Monroe County Community College was the largest donation in the school’s 35-year history.

“Monroe Auto Equipment started right here in Monroe, and I wanted to return a measure of that success to the community,” The Blade reported that she told a crowd gathered for the announcement in 1999.

Mrs. Meyer’s late father-in-law, August Meyer, founded Monroe Auto Equipment in 1916, and her late husband, Richard, was a top executive in the company.

The school used her donation to build up a capital campaign for the construction of an Instructional Center for Business Training and what later became known as the Meyer Center for Performing Arts. The campaign eventually raised $13.5 million dollars and was used to construct the La-Z-Boy Center on campus, Mr. Meyer said.

She was born Sept. 1, 1922, in Champaign, Ill., to Adelle Muburak Madden and Walter Benjamin Madden. Her father was a brakeman for the the Illinois Central Railroad. He was killed in a rail accident in 1925, and her mother relocated the family to Highland Park, Mich.

Mrs. Meyer graduated from Highland Park High School in 1940. She took a job with Michigan Bell in Detroit and was eventually assigned to the Monroe office as a supervisor. She met her husband, Richard, in Monroe and the two were married Aug. 10, 1946.

“I was pregnant with my daughter Karen, and [Mr. Meyer] used to come in my grocery store,” said Lucillee Vuich, 82, Mrs. Meyer’s long-time friend. The store Mrs. Vuich owned with her husband, Danny, was called Food Town but is currently known as Danny’s Fine Food.

“He [Mr. Meyer] looked at me and said ‘you are pregnant too ... so is my wife.’ A couple days later we got together, and we have been best friends since,” said Mrs. Vuich.

Mrs. Vuich described Mrs. Meyer as a private woman who did not like to boast or show off but was very generous to her friends.

Surviving are daughters, Tamela Fitzgibbons and Deborah Almada; son, Michael Meyer; three grandsons, and one step-grandson

Services will be 5 p.m. Saturday at the IHM Motherhouse Chapel in Monroe, where visitation will begin at 3:30 p.m.

The family suggests tributes to the foundation at Monroe County Community College with a designation for the Meyer Endowment for the Performing Arts.

— Marlene Harris-Taylor