Meryl Wieder passed away at age 80 on Tuesday, June 12, 2019.
She served as the UCSB Department of Geography’s first Management Services Officer beginning in 1978 and retired in 2004. In addition to being one of the longest-serving former members of the department’s administrative staff, she played a key role in the development of computerized accounting at UCSB. In fact, she was one of the first Geography staff members to have ever owned their own computer! An inquisitive and self-motivated individual who loved to learn, Meryl had taught herself shorthand and received a B.A. in French and M.A. in Sociology.
Meryl was also a passionate photographer. In a reflection she wrote on the topic, she expressed, “What I like most about photography is recording a visual journey of the people I meet and the events I attend and the places I go. It is like a living diary… I have taken pictures of plasma energy fields, the moon, night shots, conferences of costumers, wedding anniversary parties, landscapes, people, cats and dogs, and horses in motion, used ND filters, polarizers, etc. The images are all stored by year, date, and subject. Reading in the directory of the files is like ‘instant recall’ of where I have been and what I have done. It’s a diary to some degree.” Meryl was a member of the Channel City Camera Club, serving as the organization’s secretary for several years. She enjoyed going on field trips to the mountains and to the small animal shoots held annually at Rocky Nook Park. She also loved to photograph her favorite plants at the Santa Barbara Orchid Society’s annual shows.
Meryl never owned a house of her own and thus rented housing throughout her time in Santa Barbara. In 2009, she ended up renting under long-time friend and colleague Bill Norrington, who also worked in UCSB’s Geography Department as an assistant staff member. As Bill put it, “Four fifty-four PDD [wasn’t] just a house, [it was] a home.” However, due to the onset of Parkinson’s disease, Meryl needed to be moved to a rehabilitation center. She eventually found herself at Heritage House, where she was able to live out the rest of her days alongside her beloved cat, Fuzzy.
When Meryl did pass, a commemoration was held for her where many fellow Heritage House community members, former UCSB Geography staff members, camera club members, and close friends came together to pay their respects. The ceremony was enlightening as folks sung hymns together and shared their favorite memories of Meryl to celebrate the wonderful individual. Bill had this to say about her: “Meryl was a very private person, some might say puzzling… I used to tease Meryl by calling her ‘Meryl the pearl.’ Apart from the rhyme, it sort of fits in other ways. Meryl did have a protective outer shell, but inside was a jewel — a person who was smart, witty, talented, and generous. I miss her.” Meryl’s in-law, Joyce, recalls Meryl saying once, “If anyone asks how I want to be remembered, please tell them, ‘She exercised compassion whenever possible.'” Indeed, Meryl will be greatly missed, and she will most certainly be remembered for her impact on the lives of those she touched and her service to the UCSB community and beyond.