Pert, perky and petite – so described Esther Meckler, outstanding girl graduate of Cleveland Heights High School, class of 1951. The young woman who in high school and throughout her 87 years, fought for progressive Democratic candidates and causes from Adlai Stevenson to Barack Obama; from Planned Parenthood to local libraries.
Her family mourns her passing. She was the beloved wife of the late Avery Meckler, and the devoted mother of Stephanie Meckler and Jacob Meckler (Lynne Meckler); dear sister of Milton Katz (the late Jessie Katz), the late Natalie Berg (the late Peter Finnegan), and the late Faye Ratner (Albert Ratner). She was an adored aunt to many nieces and nephews (among them, Jennifer Berg, Joanna Berg, Debby Salzberg, Brian Ratner, Rodd Gilbert and their spouses and children), serving as part friend, part mother and part grandmother. Esther was a beloved member of an every Sunday brunch threesome, together with her first cousins Flo Chelm (the late Irv Chelm) and Eddie Kowit (Roz Kowit).
Her family was her great joy, she a great joy to her family.
Culture was her passion. She was known to have changed her pocketbook three times a day as she ran from a two-hour tai chi, to work, to dinner, or the theater, a movie, the symphony or a visit to a friend’s or family member’s home.
She avidly attended galleries, lectures and museums. She loved experiences of all types, attending outdoor city festivals, or the Cleveland International Film Festival, at which she’d watch three or more movies a day, every day of the festival. Even when walking became challenging, she relished attending The Cleveland Orchestra performances on a subscription basis, or the Hessler Street Fair or the Cleveland Flea. She loved reading and was never without a hard cover book or her Kindle.
Esther was a fierce defender of public education, and protecting the opportunity for people everywhere, however situated and whatever age, to obtain higher education. She was a graduate of Mather College (now Case Western Reserve University), having attended the University of Wisconsin and Ohio University. She received her master’s degree in library science from Kent State University, also having attended Wayne State University.
Her sense of civic pride (from Los Angeles to Maui to Cleveland) and her support of the underserved were fundamental to her core. She ultimately served as the librarian for Martin Luther King High School at East 71st Stree and Hough Avenue, as well as a number of other inner city schools, after having taught in the Cleveland Heights schools. Her love of reading and books began at a young age. As a high school student she worked a bookmobile bringing books to those with less access to public libraries. Her former students would often recognize her as she attended activities from the east side to the west side. They would express gratitude for her guidance with projects such as the national Shakespeare competition, which she ran for MLK, as well as writing and producing multimedia presentations, directing her students (and her husband who contributed his drawing, photography and general joviality to the students and the projects.
Even in retirement, she worked for Court Community Service, placing criminal offenders in service positions in and around Cleveland, and enjoyed traveling, and online shopping (up until days before passing), continuing her love of reading and her tai chi practice.
Esther was a consummate entertainer, with impeccable taste in all things sensory, and an open loving heart to those at her beautifully set table. Everyone was welcome, provided she had time to add and adjust placeholders. She never hesitated to commemorate birthdays, accomplishments, or homecomings even creating holidays to encourage celebration. Her Hawaii friends referred to her as the little classy lady. Together, she and her lifelong high school friends, known since high school as the “Minnies” (due to their short stature, though towering love) (Eunice, Marsha, Donna) joined each other at least monthly for lunches or lectures. She was an influencer of all things fashion; her style was transcendent whether in leggings or a pantsuit. She accessorized to a tasteful “T.” She was a generous and beautiful woman of mind, soul and whatever material means she had.
Despite her accomplishments and passions, it was her obvious goodness that people recognized. She crossed all typically drawn lines of gender, age, culture, preferences, religion and skin color in her inherent relatability. People just took to her, recognizing her strength, kindness, accessibility, humor and beauty. Fun, funny, particular and opinionated, ever-charming and pragmatic yet open and flexible were her personality magnets.
Esther never stopped learning, yearning and pursuing new experiences around the world or in her own backyard. She was a timeless: mastering texting, FaceTiming and emailing, while penning handwritten letters; researching current events, recipes, restaurants and travel online and in public libraries.
Above all, she felt that life is for the living.
Please go out and live and love life as testament to our reverence for Esther Meckler.
Services will be held at 2 p.m. Friday, Aug. 9 at Park Synagogue East, 27500 Shaker Blvd. in Pepper Pike. Interment will be at Bet Olam Cemetery.
Family will receive friends at the Meckler residence following services on Friday until 7 p.m., and 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Aug. 11 and Aug 12.
Friends who wish may contribute to the Esther and Avery Meckler Philanthropic Fund, c/o The Jewish Federation of Cleveland or 2,000 Libros.