William H. Meyerholt: A Remembrance

by John Delach

When he died, The Cleveland Plain Dealer carried the obituary of William H. Meyerholt, age 72, of Munson Township, Ohio. Meyerholt, a retired United States Air Force Colonel, became the insurance manager for Lubrizol after leaving the service.

But he was always a jet jockey who drove F-105 Thunderchiefs during the Viet Nam war. The Thunderchief was a flying tank that pilots flew into harm’s way in support of our ground troops. The most audacious pilots were dubbed Wild Weasels.  These pilots deliberately flew toward NVA Surface-To-Air batteries challenging the enemy to lock-on with their radar so they could fire their own missiles at the SAMS control center and knock out the entire battery.

Meyerholt was good at this because he was crazy. All good fighter pilots are crazy. Like the World War II American submarine captains and their German U-Boat cousins, it was said: “There are bold commanders and old commanders, but there aren’t any bold and old commanders.

Fighter pilots, no matter how bold still had a much better chance at survival than a submariner since they could eject from their crippled fighters. Meyerholt eventually left the service and joined Lubrizoil as their risk manager. Business tempered him a bit but, deep down,  he was still insane.

Even though I never worked on the Lubrizol account, he often sought me out on his visits to New York City. Perhaps he’d gotten wind that I was an Air Force brat whose father flew 43 missions in B-24 Liberators with the Eighth Air Force during the Second World War? Or did he sense that I too had a crazy streak?

My weirdest encounter with Bill occurred in Paris on one warm, bright spring Paris morning; I was in town with my clients from Exxon. We had a break in our meeting schedule and my client, Richard G and I decided to take a stroll to enjoy the sights, sounds and the pleasant weather. As we walked across Place De La Concorde toward the River Sein, I distinctly heard a voice clearly shout out above the cacophony generated by the sea of automobiles circling the plaza,  “Hey, Delach, boy are you fat!”

I did a double take, looked at Dick and asked, “Am I crazy or did you hear what I just heard?”

“John, maybe we’re both losing it, but I heard it too.”

This is where this experience gets weirder. Two days later, Dick and I were about to cross a street in front of the Eiffel Tower when Meyerholt seemed to appear out of nowhere. He grabbed me in a bear hug and laughed like hell in his infectious way.

 I looked up at his smiling eyes and shouted: “You S.O.B, it was you who shouted out my name the other day, wasn’t it?”

“ Delach, you’re too fat to miss. You can run, but you can’t hide, and you owe me a Johnny Walker Black, you hump.”

I laughed as loud as he did, “You’re on, Bill.”

I had already bought him several Johnny Walker Black Scotch drinks in New York and London and that night I added Paris to the list by doing the honors at  the bar in the St. James Hotel.

We were both retired when another Marsh guy from our Cleveland office sent me his obit. Reading it, I remembered that time in Paris was the last time I ever saw Meyerholt.

Having the chance to read his obit put a smile on my face.

I had good times with a good man. True to form, for what it’s worth, here is how his obituary concluded:

Memorial contributions may be made to Bush-Cheney ’04

P.O. Box 10648  

Arlington, Virginia, 22210

Still crazy, still crazy, still crazy after all these years.