Kevin Cody

Passing of Body Glove’s, Dive N’ Surf’s Patty Meistrell marks end of a dynasty, end of an era

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by Kevin Cody

Body Glove co-founder Bob Meistrell entertained guests with stories about underwater caves where lobsters hung from the ceilings like bats. Patty Meistrell entertained guests by listening to them.

“She’d say, ‘Give me a hug and a kiss.’ And then ask after your family, by name,” nephew Billy Meistrell said.

Her stories were as understated as her husband’s were exciting, but just as memorable. “I played golf two times and both times got holes in one. So I quit, it was too easy,” she told friends. 

For all his exuberance, Bob was prim. He didn’t drink. A sign on the Body Glove boat read, “If you’re smoking, you better be on fire.”

Patty’s demure manner hid a pretend hussy who loved her Jack Daniels and coke and told naughty jokes. “All my dirty jokes I learned from my mom,” Robbie, the oldest of Patty’s and Bob’s three sons  said. She told his favorite at a DEMA (Diving Equipment Manufacturers Association) convention in New Orleans.

“We went to dinner with some buttoned-down executives from Rubatex. Mom kept quiet, letting the men talk business until dinner was over. Then, out of the blue, she told this joke. All I can tell you is the punchline was her tongue sticking out. Everyone was too shocked to laugh, especially dad.”

“When I’d bring a girlfriend home, mom would look her up and down and if she thought the girl was pretty, she’d say, ‘Bitch.’ That would break the ice.”

Patty won the Miss Hermosa Beach Beauty Pageant. Photo courtesy of the Meistrell family.

Third son Randy recalled a story his mom told about a “wardrobe malfunction” when she was a mermaid in the Roy and Dale Rogers Water Rodeo at Marineland. Patty was a competitive swimmer and diver at El Segundo High School, where she met Bob. She was also a Miss Hermosa Beach Beauty Pageant winner. .

Bob and his twin brother Bill maintained Marineland’s three story exhibition fish tank, which had viewing portals at each level. 

When Patty was hired to be a mermaid, Bill made her a strapless, green wetsuit and mermaid tail. Her role in the water rodeo was to dive from the high dive platform into the deep tank and swim through the fish in front of the portals, where upwards of 600 people could watch. On her first dive her green wetsuit top slipped down, leaving the audience with memories of a mermaid they would never forget.

Patty Meistrell (right) and Elaine Morgan with their Joe Quigg surfboards. Meistrell and Morgan were among the few women surfers in the late 1940s. Quigg is credited with adding the first rocker to surfboards, making the more maneuverable. Photo courtesy of the Meistrell family

The couple’s hospitality at their home in Torrance and aboard their boats in Cherry Cove on Catalina was legendary. Ronnie, the couple’s second sons, recalled a party in Cherry Cove, aboard their 37-foot power boat Que Paso.

“Dad invited the people moored on one side of us over for dinner, without telling mom. Mom invited the people on the other side and the people on the boat behind us over for dinner without telling dad. Then a friend pulls up alongside with eight people aboard. He said the channel was too rough for them to sail back to King Harbor and could we loan them some food. Mom said, ‘No. But you can come aboard for dinner. We had steaks for six, and we had 28 guests. So while mom cooked the steaks, dad jumped overboard, speared a yellowtail and grabbed five abalones.”

Patty and Bob Meistrell and three generations of family celebrated Bob’s 82nd birthday by diving on the U.S.S. Palanwan, a 441 foot WWII supply ship sunk in 1977 in 100 feet of water off of Redondo Beach. Easy Reader file photo

Patty and Bob Meistrell bought a modest home in Torrance in the early ‘50s, a few years after Bob and Bill bought Dive N’ Surf. When their home became too small to host parties for their growing company, they bought the house next door. 

“We called it the party house because that’s all they used it for,” Ronnie said.

Longtime Body Glove employee Scott Daley attended countless parties at the couple’s house and boats. “Bob would teach a customer to SCUBA dive in the pool at Dive N’ Surf and then he and Patty would invite them to Catalina aboard their boat. No matter how many people Patty and Bob invited over, Patty always made sure everyone was having a good time. And she was having the best time of them all.”

Patty Meistrell with (clockwise from left) sculptor Chris Barella, nephew Billy, and sons Ronnie, Randy and Robbie during the dedication of the bronze sculptures of her husband Bob and his twin Bill at Seaside Lagoon in 2013. Photo by Kevin Cody

Patty’s passing marks the end of a dynasty and more sadly, the end of an era,” Daley said. 

Robbie Meistrell agreed. “My dad and uncle Bill’s businesses wouldn’t have become the successes they did without her,” he said.

Bob and Patty Meistrell steal the scene with a kiss during a family photo. Photo courtesy of the Meistrell family.

Patty Meistrell passed away last Wednesday, surrounded by her family at age 87, following a long fight with Alzeimers. She is survived by sons Robbie, Ronnie and Randy, their wives Nora, Shelly and Susan; grandchildren Tracey, Matt, Jamie, Nick, Kenna, Robert, Rhoni, Randi and Makayla; great grandchildren Mia, Maddox and Mila; niece Julie, nephew Billy and his wife Karen; grandnephew Daley and grand niece Jenna; and great grand nephews Julie, Jake and Jared. A memorial service has not yet been planned.

 

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