Ernst Meissner, advocate for civic improvements
Menlo Park resident Ernst Meissner, who died Nov. 25 at the age of 86, could rightfully lay claim to having added 1,000 points of light to the city. Those strings of white LED lights wrapped around the street trees along the Santa Cruz Avenue business district? An idea put forth by Mr. Meissner, along with his idea for the median itself and for the trees and flowers (now gone) planted there.
For Mr. Meissner, an architect and community volunteer, the improvement and beautification of the city was a work in progress, according to a chronology of his life provided by his wife, Betty Meissner. Mr. Meissner would monitor the lighted street trees on Santa Cruz Avenue and inform the city of outages. "For years he would walk down the street at night," she said, looking for burned-out bulbs and checking on the mechanisms that governed when the lights came on.
For Ernst Meissner, an architect and community volunteer, the city of Menlo Park -- its beautification and improvement -- was a work in progress. He is shown in his Menlo Park backyard. (Photo by Linda Hubbard/InMenlo)
At the time of his death, Mr. Meissner, a longtime member of the Menlo Park Historical Association, had been working with the association for about two years on plans to build a replica of a 19th century gateway that once stood near the intersection of El Camino Real and Ravenswood Avenue. Mr. Meissner presided over the city's Chamber of Commerce in 1984 and 1985, and was given the Chamber's Golden Acorn Award in 1994 -- a recognition repeated in 2011, when the Chamber gave the award to the Meissners as a couple. The Meissners were hosts to more than 35 international graduate students as members of the Stanford Homestay program.
As a Peninsula horseman, he was a member of the San Mateo County Volunteer Horse Patrol. He was inducted into the San Mateo County Horsemen's Association Hall of Fame in 2016.
A native of Hoechst, Germany, he chose to study architecture. After becoming a U.S. citizen, he found work as an architect in Chicago and San Francisco. Once in the Bay Area, Mr. Meissner built a house on Big Tree Way in unincorporated Woodside; he moved to Menlo Park in 1970. Once a year, the Meissners departed the Bay Area for travel; their journeys included a trip to Madagascar in 2004, and to Tibet and Nepal in 2005. Their trips abroad included China, Sicily, Peru, Scandinavia, Cambodia and Vietnam. Mr. Meissner returned to Germany with his wife in 2011 and went by himself in 2015. Their last trip was to Croatia, where they took a cruise in the Adriatic Sea.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by his daughter, Melina in San Leandro; his son, Bernhard of Hollister; and his sister, Sieglinde in Kelkheim, Germany.
Donations in memory of Mr. Meissner may be made to the Peninsula Open Space Trust.