Carl Mesle left his beloved city, Independence, as a better place, and friends and family say that was through a life of service to his community, family and church.
“I can’t think of anybody who more fully illustrated what it meant to give yourself to others,” said Terry Snapp, pastor of Community of Christ Stone Church, a church that Mesle pastored from 1970 to 1979.
Mesle died Wednesday. He was 99. His wife, Kay, died five years ago.
“My mother represented love and beauty. My father represented commitment and integrity,” said Ann Mesle, their daughter.
She said the family’s view is this: “He lived his values. He was an example for his children and his grandchildren ... in terms of faith, community and service to others.”
A friend, Brent Schondelmeyer, rattled off the 12 key words in the Boy Scout Law – “A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent” – and said most of us are pretty good at two or three of those but Mesle embodied them all.
“Carl was the consummate Boy Scout,” he said.
Fellow Scouter Bill Esry added that if you stick to those 12, “then you probably had a pretty good life.”
Schondelmeyer said Mesle was always ministering to others.
“In a world of selfies ... Carl was selfless in an extraordinary fashion,” he said.
Friends say that constancy and total commitment to any organization or cause he adopted was remarkable.
“We all do it sometimes. He did it all the time,” Snapp said.
Everyone has a Carl Mesle story. Scout Troop 223 dates to the earliest days of Scouting in America – 1910. Mesle, an Eagle Scout and camp staffer in New York, where he grew up, was involved with the troop for decades.
Scoutmaster Jason White says until not long ago – Mesle was 95 or 96 – on Tuesday evenings with good weather Mesle would walk from the Groves at Truman Road and Forest Avenue to Stone Church nearly a mile away and give the “scoutmaster minute” at the troop’s meeting.
“He’d always have a nice, uplifting, bootstrap kind of talk,” White said.
Ann Mesle followed on with what she was a favorite family memory. For four years, her daughter Meg sang in the “Messiah” choir, which practices for many weeks each fall before its November performance. After the Tuesday Scout meeting, he would walk from Stone Church over to the Community of Christ Auditorium so he could hear his granddaughter practice.
Through the church, Scouts and other endeavors, Mesle was constant about helping youth.
“He was a very strong advocate for young people. .. Most of his life was very supportive of their development,” said Richard Howard, historian emeritus for the Community of Christ.
Howard said Mesle pushed for better ecumenical relations in the city, through such groups as the Independence Ministerial Alliance, even at a time when that might have been a minority view within his own denomination.
“He was always looking for ways to see the different denominations in Independence” to have better relations, Howard said.
Howard also recalls that Mesle was pastor at Stone Church, 1970 to 1979, during some challenging times, when there was resistance to a new Sunday school curriculum from the denomination.
“Carl was a mediating influence,” Howard said.
The church itself – the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in those days – was in a debate about such issues as ordaining women, a change that came in the mid-80s.
“He did help that conversation to move forward in some indirect ways,” Howard said.
Snapp said he was impressed with the degree to which Mesle committed to one-on-one ministry with other people.
“He really not only cared but spent time with people,” he said.
And, as always, it came back to Scouts.
“He’d always ask me, ‘How’s the troop doing? How’s the troop doing?’” Snapp said.
Esry, president and CEO of Blue Ridge Bank and Trust and this year’s presiding chieftain of the Tribe-O-Say, an honorary society within Scouts, said he got to know Mesle well during the Fast Forward Independence project of nearly 20 years ago, a civic endeavor to look at where Independence was headed and what improvements were needed. He said he was struck by his energy and optimism.
“Positive things – he didn’t dwell on the negative. He always looked on the good, positive side of problems and people and issues,” Esry said.
“He was tremendously humble. ... He also had a good sense of humor,” Howard said.
One more story: Howard said he was at Mesle’s birthday party last year, at the Groves. How’s it going, Howard asked?
Most days are good, Mesle said with a twinkle in his eye.
“But there’s a lot of peer pressure here.”