In memory of Howard Meinke, a gathering on the bay

Attendees on the beach during Saturday's memorial for Howard Meinke at Mattituck Yacht Club. (Credit: Michael White)
Attendees on the beach during Saturday’s memorial for Howard Meinke at Mattituck Yacht Club. (Credit: Michael White)

Howard Meinke was a lot of things to a lot of people.

To his grandkids, he was Captain Evil.

That was due to his penchant for tossing children off tubes when the family was out motoring in Peconic Bay.

“He took his grandkids tubing behind the boat and he gave them a ride,” said his daughter Nancy Morrell. “He did whatever it took to throw them off, 14 years old or 4 years old … That’s where the name [Captain Evil] came from.”

Daughter Janice Dunbar later added, “He did find joy in driving in such a way as to catapult the kids off the tube. And that was Captain Evil’s mission. The higher the kids flew, the more he smiled.

“But those kids kept coming back for more.”

That same bay — the one on which he bonded with his grandchildren and fought so hard to protect through his environmental advocacy work — was a fitting backdrop for Saturday’s touching memorial service at Mattituck Yacht Club, which drew over a hundred people to the beach.

Howard Meinke's three children (L-R) Nancy Morrell, Jeffrey Meinke and Janice Dunbar all spoke at the memorial.
Howard Meinke’s three children (L-R) Nancy Morrell, Jeffrey Meinke and Janice Dunbar all spoke. (Credit: Michael White)

Under a clear sky, about a dozen people spoke of their memories of Mr. Meinke, a home builder who was also an accomplished sailor and avid skier.

He had served as a vice commodore and commodore of the yacht club, where he and his children all taught sailing — and learned to sail themselves.

“We spent our fabulous childhood summers sailing at the Mattituck Yacht Club,” Ms. Dunbar told the crowd.

Mr. Meinke of Laurel died from injuries suffered in a car accident Sept. 18 in Greenport. He was crossing Route 48 near the Soundview Restaurant, where he was attending an Eastern Long Island Hospital fundraiser, when he was struck by a passing motorist. He was 86.

The speakers at Saturday’s memorial event spoke often of Mr. Meinke’s dedication to his community and the environment.

Bill Toedter, president of the North Fork Environmental Council, a volunteer group of which Mr. Meinke had also served as president, told of how Mr. Meinke would recall his youthful days spent on the North Fork, when the water was clearer and fish could be seen swimming all about.

“He recounted how 50 years later the water was much murkier, he couldn’t see his toes,” Mr. Toedter said.

“His story was my story, and I bet it’s the story of many here,” he continued. “We remember cleaner water and better times and we see there are problems and we want it fixed for our children and grandchildren. Howard led the way. He dedicated his time, his life to making a North Fork a better place.”

Mr. Meinke’s son, Jeffrey, was the first speaker introduced.

Like the others, he spoke from the yacht club’s shaded porch with the crowd assembled on a sun-splashed beach below.

He spoke fondly of his time working with his dad at Meinke Associates, and sprinkled in tearful stories from their time spent together and with the family out on the water.

“As an adult, as I continue my sailing adventures, I’ve come to realize that I was taught by a master,” Jeff Meinke said. “Thank you, Dad, for teaching me life’s lessons both on and off the seas.

“As Dad’s physical stature was diminishing, his intellectual presence and outspoken concern for our fragile North Fork grew,” he continued. “Howard was the magnificent estuary that has ebbed from my life. His taking his sudden and unfair, but in many respects a blessing in disguise.

“I will miss him. We will all miss him. God bless you, Dad.”

[email protected]

Attendees were all encouraged to leave their name.
Attendees were all encouraged to leave their name in a memorial book. (Credit: Michael White