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Family has deep roots in park, community center

Paul Meyer Park near Tenaya Way and New Forest Drive in Spring Valley is all about family.

The park’s tennis courts are named for Meyer’s daughter, Pauline, and the athletic fields for his son, Charles.

Contained within the park is the Helen Meyer Community Center, named for his wife.

Paul died in 1999, a year after he and Helen attended the grand opening of the community center, just shy of their 70th wedding anniversary.

“Grandpa wanted to make sure she saw that before he passed away,” said granddaughter Amy Meyer.

Paul donated more than $1 million to build the park in the late 1980s and, years later, the community center at 4525 New Forest Drive.

Amy cared for her grandparents from 1993 through her grandmother’s death in 2005. In 1994, the family opened the Paul E. and Helen S. Meyer Foundation, which gives educational grants and scholarships. Amy is president of the foundation.

Paul and Helen were born and raised in Illinois. Helen grew up in the town of Staunton, Ill., where her father was mayor.

Paul’s family was in the grave monument business, and he worked there starting as a boy, Amy said.

From then on, Paul was constantly finding ways to make money. Amy said he opened the town’s first car lot, started several other businesses, including strip malls, and invested in real estate and the stock market.

“Ever since he was young he was an entrepreneur,” Amy said. “… Grandfather was definitely a businessman.”

Grandma, on the other hand, was a housewife, Amy said.

“She did her socialite stuff, but she was really just a homebody,” Amy said.

Paul and Helen wed in 1929 and often made trips to Las Vegas for conventions before they permanently moved here in the early 1970s. They bought a townhouse near Sandhill Road and Twain Avenue.

Paul was a pilot and always would fly the two of them in his Cessna plane between Illinois and Nevada.

“My grandmother never wore pants except when they went flying,” Amy said. “She would wear these really thick pants because it was so cold in the plane.”

Paul was a world traveler in his plane, too. Amy has a certificate from Port Barrow, Alaska, dated 1961, acknowledging her grandfather’s flight over the Arctic Circle.

Laurie Howard-Malm was a schoolteacher when the Meyers moved in next door to her parents. The families would become close, and the Meyers even made Howard-Malm the vice president of the foundation because of her background in education.

“Paul was absolutely, amazingly brilliant,” Howard-Malm said. “My dad would always say there wasn’t much he didn’t know in terms of finance and the economy. He was incredibly successful at whatever he did.

“Helen was charming and sweet and compassionate and just lovely.”

Howard-Malm remembered how upset Paul was after he felt forced to sell his two older-model Rolls-Royce cars because of the hot climate.

“In Las Vegas, he didn’t realize we have 120-degree heat,” she said. “Things started melting in the car, and the engine failed. He was beside himself. He felt like those were his two babies. He was pretty heartbroken. In the pinnacle of his success, they couldn’t function in Las Vegas.”

The Meyers also owned racehorses. When Paul was going to be out doing business during the day, he would often drop his wife off at a casino so she could eat shrimp cocktails and watch horse racing in the sports book. The El Cortez and Caesars Palace were two of her favorites, Amy said.

Helen never drove herself. In fact, she did not learn to drive until after she married Paul, who pressured her to learn so he could buy her a Cadillac, Amy said. But after her first accident when she was in her 30s, she got spooked and never drove again.

By the time Amy moved to Las Vegas to care for them in 1993, Paul had become blind. So Amy acted as their chauffeur.

Howard-Malm said Paul was a “real believer in education.” She said he went to law school late in life so he could understand the contracts his attorneys drew up or so he could draft a contract himself.

Paul and Helen adjusted well to the Las Vegas lifestyle.

Helen was a big Liberace fan, and they held their 55th wedding anniversary at the former Liberace Museum. They would eat at a different buffet for lunch every weekday. Their favorite, Amy said, was at the former Showboat casino.

Amy said her grandpa stayed active in stock trading up to his death. During the time she spent with him, he “imparted upon me a lot of business sense,” Amy said.

“That didn’t come naturally to me. He really fashioned me to be wiser when it comes to business and contracts and how money works.”

Contact View education reporter Jeff Mosier at jmosier@viewnews.com or 702-224-5524.

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