Lt. Colonel David Winston Meyer died at his home in Medford, Oregon on May 21, 2023, at the age of 87.
Although he earned the rank and title of his full name above, he didn’t use it after he retired from the Air Force in 1976. Dave was not a formal person, and he wasn’t much for ceremony. He was happiest by a quiet stream or in a boat on a lake with a fishing pole in his hand. While he spent a lot of years in a green Air Force flight suit and combat boots, he was most at home in a plaid shirt and Filson jacket.
He loved being outdoors (fishing, hunting, camping), fine woodworking, cooking and baking, reading (especially mysteries), puzzles of all kinds, watching football, and most of all, garage sales and bargain hunting. He loved music and was famous in the family for knowing the first line of thousands of songs and having them ready on a moment’s notice. Dave had a brilliant mind, an extraordinary memory, and he was known to family and friends for his distinctive sense of humor full of familiar one-liners. His love language was building and fixing things and there wasn’t anything he couldn’t do.
The youngest of three brothers, Dave was born in Portland, Oregon on December 15, 1935, to Leah Shaffer (a chiropractor and poet) and Raymond Meyer (a WWI veteran, butcher, and farmer). He lived in North Portland until the age of 11 when the family moved to a farm in Svensen, Oregon near Astoria. He attended Knappa Svensen High School where he played baseball and football, acted in a play, and, an exceptionally gifted student, graduated at the age of 16 as valedictorian of his older brother’s class.
He attended two terms at Oregon State College (now OSU) before returning home to work in a local sawmill for a couple of years. In February of 1955, he enlisted in the United States Air Force and entered basic training as a 19-year-old. He spent a year training and serving in the Armed Services Police before he became an Aviation Cadet in Texas. He got his commission and wings as a 2nd Lieutenant in 1957 and then spent time in Kansas and Nevada training at B-47 school and survival school. He was assigned to a B-47 crew in the 341st Bomb Wing of Strategic Air Command at Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene, Texas in March of 1958.
And then he went home to the family farm in Oregon for a visit. During his trip home, he visited his aunt and uncle in Portland. His aunt worked at Jantzen, and it was there that he was introduced to a beautiful young receptionist named Nancy Forest. They spent most of the next ten days of his leave together, then wrote daily once he returned to Texas. After a few months, Dave sent Nancy an engagement ring by mail and proposed by phone. On August 29, 1958, they were married in the chapel at Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene. Two children followed, Angela in May of 1959 and Robert in June of 1961.
From Texas, with a stopover in Portland where Robert was born, Dave and Nancy moved to Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, Washington where Dave flew B-52s. Being back in the Pacific Northwest meant time closer to extended family, summer boating on Lake Coeur d’Alene, and snowy winters.
In 1966 Dave was sent to Counterinsurgency School for training to fly C-123s in preparation for his first assignment in Vietnam. Between September 1966 and October 1973, Dave was in Vietnam for a total of three years. His first tour was 11 months long and he piloted C-123 cargo planes. His second tour (5 months long) and his third tour (19 months long), he served as a pilot of B-52 Stratofortress bombers, including as one of the lead planes in the Hanoi Christmas raids. Although Dave didn’t talk about his military service much, he was a highly decorated Vietnam veteran, flying 1,322 combat missions and receiving fourteen citations including the Distinguished Flying Cross.
In 1967, Dave was sent to Homestead Air Force Base outside Miami, Florida. Proximity to Harry Harris State Park meant lots of snorkeling for the family and a house full of aquariums stocked with saltwater fish—tangs, French angels, butterfly fish, a banded coral shrimp, a baby octopus, and more. After less than a year, Dave was transferred to Plattsburgh Air Force Base in New York, and the family set off for New England.
The two-and-a-half years in Plattsburgh were some of the happiest as Dave and the family enjoyed the history and beauty of upstate New York and its surroundings. Ice skating on Lake Champlain, tasting fresh maple syrup in Vermont, adventures in Montreal, riding the Olympic bobsled run in Lake Placid, concerts at Saratoga Center for the Performing Arts, visits to Revolutionary War battlefields and historic sites, and many weekends spent exploring and antiquing made very special family memories.
In December of 1970, after Dave returned from a five-month temporary duty in Guam, Okinawa, and Thailand, the family set out on a big move once again, heading south to Shreveport, Louisiana for Dave’s new assignment at Barksdale Air Force Base. Louisiana meant bass fishing in a red, white, and blue striped bass boat (that also pulled water skiers), multi-family houseboat trips, helping Nancy set up and open an antique shop, teaching two teenagers how to drive, and finishing a 21-year career in the Air Force.
If Dave were writing this obituary, it would probably include something about favorite fishing holes and stories of the best catches in each of the locales where he was stationed at home and abroad. But instead, we’ll mention the decades-long friendships that were formed in and out of the military at every place Dave was stationed and how lucky the family was to see so much of this country together.
Dave and Nancy retired from military life to Portland, Oregon, their home state, just in time to celebrate America’s bicentennial in their beautiful Laurelhurst home. One of Dave’s retirement goals was to live long enough to be retired twice as long as he was enlisted in the Air Force, and he happily met that goal in 2017.
From 1987-2000, Dave and Nancy owned a weekend cabin on Panther Creek in the Columbia Gorge. A tiny two-room rustic hunter’s cabin, Dave built on a large bedroom, a screened porch overlooking the creek, an outdoor shower, stairs down to the creek’s edge, and anything else they could dream up. Cooking on the old wood stove and puttering away in and around that cabin was heaven, so they sold their home in Portland and moved to Stevenson, Washington in 1990 to be closer to the cabin.
During the second half of his life (after the Air Force), Dave went to night school and got his MBA at Portland State. He worked at a sporting goods store in Lake Oswego, crafted handmade custom wood steering wheels for luxury cars, served as an insurance adjuster for SAFECO, and opened his own bakery in the Columbia Gorge: Baker’s Dozen in Stevenson, Washington.
Small town life in Stevenson, being able to go to the cabin whenever they wanted, and the natural beauty and excellent fishing of the Columbia Gorge made the move to Washington a perfect transition to the full-time retirement that was yet to come. Stevenson holds claim to another bit of significance in Dave’s life. Despite all his awards and Air Force medals, living in Stevenson provided Dave with what he often touted as his most prestigious award: being chosen as The Big Drip of Stevenson’s Annual Rain Festival and getting to ride a fire engine down Main Street as Grand Marshall of the parade.
Dave’s real retirement finally kicked off in Christmas week 2000 when he and Nancy left Washington and became Oregonians again by moving to Medford. From here on his full-time work included “honey-dos” for Nancy, learning about and collecting koi for their pond, volunteering for Wildlife Images, scrounging props and building sets for high school plays, and of course, fishing whenever possible.
Dave is survived by his wife Nancy Meyer, Medford, OR; his daughter Angela Warren (Sean) of Medford, OR; his son Robert Meyer (Korina) of Sammamish, WA; Five granddaughters—Kate Dogra (Raj) of Phoenix, AZ, Rebecca Luttrell (Matthew) of Kennewick, WA, Jennifer Lindsey (Daniel) of Bend, OR, Kristina Smith (Clay) of Livermore, CA, Rachel Warren of Portland, OR; and four great grandsons with a fifth on the way. He was proud of his family, and we are proud of him.
Private interment will take place at Willamette National Cemetery in Portland, Oregon.