William Meyle III, 61, shipping executive and friend of stars

William H. Meyle III
William H. Meyle III
Posted: January 08, 2013

William H. Meyle III, 61, of Mantua Township, a shipping executive whose family was integral to the growth of the Philadelphia port from the late 19th century until nearly the end of the 20th, died from complications of leukemia on Saturday, Dec. 29, at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

"Billy" Meyle's surname was ubiquitous on the Delaware riverfront since 1895, when his great-grandfather founded a stevedoring enterprise, the Independent Pier Co. Its fleet of tugs shepherded cargo-heavy ships from around the globe to the docks, where they were met by generations of Emil Meyle's descendants.

Mr. Meyle III was the last of the family involved in shipping. He had been immersed in it since adolescence, when he spent summers helping to paint the tugs. He learned early on to move comfortably in a world peopled with sailors and longshoremen, far removed from his Newtown Square home, the Main Line's Booth School, and the rarified environs of Aronimink Golf Club.

He went into the family business fresh from Lycoming College, and stayed 25 years, working first for his father and then his uncle. In 1995, as Independent Pier changed hands, he hopped the river from the company's headquarters at Third and Chestnut Streets and began to move cargo for Holt Logistics Corp. of Gloucester City.

At the time of his death, Mr. Meyle was director of Southern Hemisphere Fruit Operations. But his long career had made him "a jack of many trades, and a master of all - labor relations, customer relations, banking relations, commercial relations," said company president Leo Holt, who met Mr. Meyle 30 years ago, when he was the competition.

"He grew up in the business," Holt added. "When river water gets in the veins, it stays there."

Mr. Meyle's office overlooked that water from an upper floor of a warehouse. His busiest time, "fruit season," ran from November through April and demanded his attention six or seven days a week, 10 to 14 hours a day, said his wife, Rebecca, with whom he lived in Mantua since 1999.

When summer came, she said, he could indulge his passion for golf and his fascination with rock 'n' roll icons. In a stroke of creativity, Mr. Meyle had figured out how to meld them into one sublime pastime.

While a student at the Booth School, Class of 1970, he became a devotee of the Grateful Dead. Over the years, whenever possible, he joined up with the teeming entourage of DeadHeads that followed the band everywhere, and logged more than 200 concerts, by Holt's estimate.

Mr. Meyle learned to golf at Aronimink, and eventually snagged a membership at the exclusive Pine Valley Club. There, he made the acquaintance of many rock managers, from the Rolling Stones' to Sting's. He wound up on the greens with artists including Alice Cooper, Dickey Betts and other Allman Brothers members, and the Dead.

"He networked it," his wife said, noting that his cellphone was filled with numbers that astounded her. "They turned into true friendships."

In addition to his wife of 12 years, Mr. Meyle is survived by a daughter, Sally; sons Harrison and Freddy; his mother, Isabel Meyle-Keller; and a sister. He also is survived by former wife Laurie Wood Meyle.

Visitation will be held from 10 a.m. to noon Friday, Jan. 11, at St. David's Episcopal Church, 763 S. Valley Forge Rd., Wayne, followed by the funeral.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Freddy Meyle Education Fund, c/o Lisa Kline Esq., Holt Logistics Corp., 101 S. King St., Gloucester City, N.J. 08030.

Contact Kathleen Tinney at 610-313-8106.

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