…..from Dona Leicht, member of the Mineralogical Society of Southern California:
There was an era in mineral collecting when the “club” was the thing. It was where we all gathered together to learn, to laugh, to collect, to sponsor shows and in general be the “goodwill” ambassadors of the mineral hobby. Gus Meister spent a goodly part of his life as one of these “ambassadors”.
Gus’s story is actually the “American Dream.” come true. With only $20 in his pocket, this young man left his homeland of Germany to come to America. For someone who had finished his apprenticeship as a machinist, washing dishes to make his way in the “big city” of New York was hardly an auspicious beginning to his new life. Several jobs followed including some time with the Waltham Watch Company in Massachusetts. In 1932 a friend suggested a trip across the country and when they landed in California there was no question in Gus’s mind that this is where he would stay, although his love of “road trips” never waned.
And stay he did….to do successful work as a machinist, marry a lovely lady named Edith and raise two daughters. The family moved to his beloved home in Altadena in 1956 and remained there his entire life. He owned Meister Engineering Corporation located in Pasadena, California. He specialized in prototype and short-run machining for many industries including aerospace and specialty cameras. He is a life member of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers.
An announcement in the local paper about meetings of the Mineralogical Society of Southern California prompted Gus to attend and his interest in minerals became a life long hobby from that point in 1954. He studied geology and mineralogy at Pasadena City College and joined “study groups” held in various collectors’ houses in the area, names like, Chapman, Hill, VanAmridge, Calvert, Rodekor, Streeter, all movers and shakers of their day.
Gus loved the thumbnail size specimens and assembled quite a collection. It is Gus we can thank for new rules in competitive displays that allow for some “flair.” Previously thumbnails were displayed in unflattering wooded boxes with dividers. When Gus was disqualified during a competition for his deviation from the “rules” he took it upon himself to change the rules! As President of the California Federation and finally AFMS President he nudged them into a bit more forward thinking regarding displays. Thanks, Gus.
Ever the machinist, he thought that the current crop of breakers to trim specimens were too imprecise, rough and clumsy, and especially for smaller specimens. Then the “Meister Trimmer” was born in the early 1960’s. Wayne and I still have ours as I’m sure many others do as well. Gus also engineered a faceting machine, originally called the Alter Faceter – renamed the Facet-Meister in its later years. I know of people who still use this machine.
Feisty, but always fair, Gus will be missed by his friends. Can you hear the faint sounds of the harmonica? I wonder if we can ever replace the camaraderie of those early mineral societies?
Gus served as President of the CFMS in 1969. He was CFMS Rules Chair in 1966 during the AFMS/CFMS show in Las Vegas. He served as AFMS Rules Chair at the National show in 1972 and was elected during this show for the AFMS Regional VP from California.
In 1976, the year Gus was AFMS President, the AFMS annual show and convention was held in Austin, Texas. It was a huge Texas-style show. The membership for the combined federations was 67,455. The Scholarship Fund had just topped $200,000. The grand total to run the AFMS for the year 1976 was $7,981.89. Most chairmen didn’t put in their expenses. It’s sad that at this time the president did not have a message each month in the AFMS Newsletter. We don’t have any words of wisdom from this very special person, but the quiet things he did still linger on….
In his later years, after his beloved wife Edith passed away, Gus traveled to Germany many times getting to know his country of origin. His recent years left him with poor eyesight; it slowed him down, but didn’t stop him altogether. He passed away in his beloved home in Altadena, with his daughter Annie by his side, as she has been for many years.