Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Meredith Beyers (1899-1996)-Part One

Né Meredith D. Sleep
Author, Poet, Engineer
Born April 13, 1899, St. Louis, Missouri
Died April 27, 1996, San Diego County, California

Sometimes I think that human history is just a chronicle of personalities. Meredith Beyers is a good example. He lived nearly a century, married for the first time and got a new job at age fifty-nine, started working in county elections in his sixties, and was writing away on half a dozen books in his eightieth year. "You can't sit in a rocking chair and watch TV and expect to grow into your 80s gracefully," Beyers said, and he lived by that credo. When he was young he wrote poems and stories, when he was in middle-aged he worked as an aerospace engineer, and when he was old . . . well, maybe Meredith Beyers never got old.

There were big and irrepressible personalities in Beyers' family before him. His grandfather, Welsh author and preacher Lewis Meredith (1826-1891), took to the pulpit at age eight. In his twenties, he preached in front of Wesleyan congregations, worked for a printer, and founded a literary society. Taking the nom de plume Lewys Glyn Dyfi, he published, at age twenty-six, a collection of his own verse entitled Blodau Glyn Dyfi. Three years later he was accepted to the ministry, and in the late 1850s or so, he went to the United States, to Chicago, there to preach as well. He continued to write, too, sending back to his home country pieces for a couple of Welsh-language magazines. In 1863 Meredith returned to his native land to advocate for the Union cause in the American Civil War. Once again he went to the United States and preached in Chicago. Known as "the bard of Glyn Dufvy," Meredith died in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park in 1891. Meredith's brother, Richard Meredith (1826-1856), was also a writer and a lay preacher.

Meredith and his American wife Millie had two children, a son, Arza, and a daughter, Jean, nicknamed Jennie, who was born on May 13, 1872. Jean Meredith's son, Meredith Beyers, remembered her as a great beauty--an international beauty, in fact, who "captured the heart of none other than the crown prince of Germany." When she was young, Jean slid down a rope from her upstairs bedroom to go to dances, even as her father read the Bible in the downstairs parlor. She attended Northwestern University when few women did such things and was a member of Kappa Alpha Theta. After spending a year in Europe, she married, on April 15, 1897, in Oak Park. Her new husband, Wilbert Douglas Sleep (1872-1930) of Halifax, Nova Scotia, was supposed to have been well connected but worked as a salesman. By 1910, Sleep was out of Jean Meredith's life but not before fathering her only son. And in July 1930, with his residence given as Elgin State Hospital--yes, a mental hospital--he died in or near Peoria, Illinois.

To be continued . . .

Copyright 2018 Terence E. Hanley

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