Dr. Maureen Meikle, long-time Tiburon resident and volunteer, passed away in her nursing home on January 12, seven days before her 95th birthday. A medical-school graduate of Bedford College at the University of London, Maureen continued to make discoveries and blaze trails all over her adopted state, California.
Maureen followed her school friend, Mim, to the U.S. after Mim got married, and then went to work as a physician at the University of California at Berkeley Medical Center. There she became, according to Mim’s family, “the world’s best diagnostician” as well as an “A-League” tennis player and avid skier.
But after forty years in practice there, the pressures of another epidemic virus, HIV, became overwhelming. Dr. Meikle began to think about retiring. Tiburon’s change of scene and its tennis-friendly ambiance encouraged her to relocate to the peninsula. After local voters purchased the large tract of open space behind Old St. Hilary’s Church in 1996, and a team of volunteers organized to clear out the invasive growth that had choked out the walking trails, Dr. Meikle found a new trail to blaze.
Calling themselves the “Broom Busters,” the first volunteers assembled one morning in March of 1997 on upper Lyford Drive. With assistance from park rangers and a truck, the volunteers slowly filled the truck with uprooted broom, and the fire road began to reappear. After that, the group continued its mission, and the first Saturday of every month became a Broom Buster work day. Bull thistle, pampas grass and second-growth broom were hauled away or stacked into mulch piles. Within months, native wildflowers such as the California poppy showed their colors.
However, Dr. Meikle, one of the first volunteers, found that her back was not cooperative with the wrenching movements of broom pulling, but she was quick to recognize another need as the newly popular walking path began to attract increasing numbers of dog walkers, most of whom left deposits behind. At that time, there had been no protocol for bagging up dog waste; Dr. Meikle took on the challenge, distributing donated bags, but also delivering reminders to the offenders that this was city property, and they were responsible for their animals.
Though her duties changed, the Broom Busters continued to meet monthly. Their snack break provided a modest social occasion; Dr. Meikle put her own spin on it.
She packed a bag with small tablecloths to arrange on the ground, containers of crackers or cookies, including her sought-after English toffee bars. Lemonade was available as well as small containers of milk and sugar to flavor the very good coffee. And once, when temperatures were unusually cold, Maureen cheered the workers by adding a shot of adult beverage to the coffee.
Her attention to detail traveled as far as the high Sierras, where property signs around Sardine and Upper Sardine Lakes still name her as an early petitioner to stop mega development there. The Sierra County Land Trust’s present director, Laurie Oberholzer, remembers that Maureen even showed up to meetings of the Board of Supervisors more than once when development was under discussion.
Maureen Meikle is survived by a brother in England, Malcolm, as well as numerous nieces and nephews there. She is remembered here with great affection by old Tiburon friends, the Broom Busters and Mim’s family.
Contributions in her honor may be made to The Sierra County Land Trust, c/o Laurie Oberholzer, P.O. Box 404, Sierra City, CA 96125.
No memorial has been scheduled at this time.