Local cardiologist Meisner remembered fondly

Jonathan Meisner once co-owned a courier company whose main customer agreed to pay more for the service if the cost of doing business rose significantly.

Gasoline prices tripled, but the customer refused to adjust, and the situation turned dire for the courier company — yet Jonathan couldn’t bail on it, because his partner would have lost his house.

Jonathan’s father had loaned Jonathan money to start the firm, yet never pressured his son on that account — but rather urged him to do what was needed to keep his “health, his happiness and his sanity.”

Jonathan’s father was Marvin Meisner, the retired Altoona cardiologist who died recently at 84, and his reaction to his son’s business troubles epitomized the kind of relationship he had not only with Jonathan — but with many sorts of people, according to the son.

It wasn’t about the money in the case of the courier company, Jonathan said.

It wasn’t about ego or recognition in the case of an interaction with a former employer years earlier, according to Jonathan’s mother, Judy, Marvin’s widow.

When Marvin was at Ohio State on a cardiology fellowship in his native Columbus, he wrote an operations manual for the university’s new heart catheterization lab — an effort that took months, Judy said.

Nine years afterward, as he was starting up a catheterization lab in Altoona, Marvin wrote to Ohio State to ask for a copy of the manual the university was using then.

Ohio State sent the same manual that Marvin had written, word-for-word, except that Marvin’s name wasn’t on it anymore, Judy said.

She was furious.

But Marvin was nonplussed: “‘Doesn’t matter,'” he said.

In another case, many years later, the issue was friendship, according to longtime colleague, Dr. Edmundo Grab.

Grab and Meisner often played tennis, after which they’d have a beer.

At some point, though, they didn’t play tennis anymore, and Meisner took up the less strenuous sport of bowling.

Grab had never bowled, but Meisner invited him, and a few days later, a book arrived: “Bowling Fundamentals.”

Grab remained uninterested in bowling, never did go with Meisner and only read a few pages of the book.

But he also never got rid of the book.

“I have it in my hands now,” Grab said, as he spoke on the phone with a reporter.

“I couldn’t separate myself from (it), because it was an expression of what Marvin was,” Grab said. “An expression of his generosity.”

He got married, was drafted and went to Vietnam, and while there, helped treat villagers, helped build a school and helped build a house for the interpreters who worked for him, Judy said.

He came to Blair County because the county then had no cardiologist, and “he could make a difference,” she said.

He was a founder of Blair Medical Associates, now part of UPMC.

He loved to garden, and wanted to grow big tomatoes, but, because he couldn’t find a good source of information on that in one place, he collected what he could and wrote a book, Judy said.

Judy never questioned her husband’s commitment to work, which involved long hours and lots of interruptions to answer emergency calls.

“Patients came first,” Judy said.

At one point, she confessed to him that she felt his life “had so much more value” than hers. He told her he couldn’t do what he did unless she was at home, and that reassured her.

“He was sort of controversial,” Grab said of Meisner, who in the early 2000s brought criticisms of the Altoona Hospital board to the Mirror.

“But he was a great friend, and he was a good person,” Grab said. “He left a deep impression in all those who met him.”

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 814-949-7038.


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