When Mike Sinclair invited his mother- and father-in-law to join him and his wife Cheryl for a drink at Rosewood Bar & Grill on Monday afternoon, Carol Meehleis knew something was up.
"I honestly thought they were pregnant," Meehleis said. "That's why I came."
As it turned out, Cheryl Sinclair isn't pregnant. They were at Rosewood because Bill and Carol Meehleis were named Outstanding Citizen of the Year by the Lodi Chamber of Commerce.
"I'm hard to surprise," Carol Meehleis said. "I have my thumb in so many community pies, but I was totally blindsided."
The couple will be honored at the Chamber's 90th annual membership meeting on Jan. 24, 2013.
"It's humbling" Carol Meehleis said upon learning they won the Chamber award. "There are so many in this town who give — it doesn't matter what cause."
Chamber President/CEO Pat Patrick disagrees. He noted that the couple was the unanimous choice of the Chamber's selection committee, consisting of past Outstanding Citizens of the Year.
"In their words, no one in the community has given more to the community of Lodi than Bill and Carol Meehleis," Patrick said.
The couple's accomplishments and community activism are almost too extensive to mention. They have contributed their efforts and raised considerable amounts of money for community projects. Among them:
- They led the fundraising and construction of a new press box for the Grape Bowl in the early 1990s after the old one burned down.
- They were involved in the construction of the Hope Harbor shelter run by the Salvation Army.
- They were original members of the Lodi High Flames, a fundraising group for the school.
- They've given care packages to service men and women from Lodi in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait. This year, they collected copies of the News-Sentinel because the local troops want to keep up on what's going on in the homefront and feel like they're home, Carol Meehleis said. They got service members' names from Lodi-area churches, schools and National Guard.
- They helped remodel the Lodi House, a shelter for homeless women and children.
- They donated money to Lodi High, resulting in the gym being named after them.
"They decorate rooms, drop off food and goodies for our families and build racks for our thrift store," said Lodi House Executive Director Suzanne Mangum, who nominated the Meehleises.
"Meehleis Modular built a wall in our transitional housing so we could begin the process of making an enrichment center for our clients," Mangum said on her nomination form. "Carol is running a program called Grandma's Apron so our little ones can get treats and small gifts from a secret grandma."
Bill and Carol Meehleis grew up across the street from each other in Inglewood. They met when they were 12 years old, got married after graduating from high school and have been married 52 years. They moved from Fremont to Lodi 26 years ago.
Bill Meehleis said they moved to Lodi after being talked into it by Fred Baybar, who owned Lodi Metal Tech. Baybar told Bill Meehleis he could save a lot of money delivering modular buildings by living in Lodi. He delivered buildings to schools all over California.
Meehleis said he became involved in giving back to the community after Baybar donated structural steel when Meehleis built his office on Lodi Avenue.
"This town — this is the best of the best," Carol Meehleis said. "When your back is against the wall, Lodi will be there in the best of times, the worst of times."
The couple has three children, seven grandsons and one granddaughter.
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at email@example.com.