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Olympia “Lee” (Capaldi) Meteer. Born August 12, 1922 in Crawford County, Pennsylvania. “Mother” Meteer died quietly on February 16, 2020 from natural causes in Chesterfield Missouri. She lived there for the last 13 years near her devoted caregivers, Jim and Beth Meteer. This is a tribute to a devoted woman who made a large impact on her world.
She was first referred to as “Mother Meteer” while working the Obstetrics Ward at Baraga County Memorial Hospital in her home village of L’Anse, Michigan (where she lived from 1965-2007). The title acknowledged her third devotion in life--her nursing career. Lee had set her nursing career aside for many years while she gave herself to raising her family with, “my beloved, Jim.” There came a time in her life “when the kids were doing well” that she went back into nursing. She committed to working 2 days per week for the summer. For the next 20 years she nursed full time “mothering” her patients and their families. In those days they were having lots of babies. She took on the role of teaching young mothers how to care for their newborns and often on the side teaching a bit about how to be a mother. Her role expanded to teaching the birthing classes for expectant mothers and fathers. As the years piled up, she helped with the birth and newborn care of so many babies that people all over the county began referring to her as “Mother.” The title really stuck when two Nuns were in the hospital after an auto accident. When Doc Lanczy called down the hall for “Mother Superior,” the Nuns assumed it was a Catholic hospital. The local newspaper often referred to her as “Mother Meteer.” In articles about her, the hospital, and the many awards she received. See, “Babies have been Meteer’s first love” (L’Anse Sentinel, July 23, 1986).
If she were writing here, she would brag about the objects of her second devotion in life—her family. She is survived by her four children. Antoinette Shepich (Jack); James Jr. (Beth); Philip (Nancy); Julia Antiel (Mark). In a later stage of her life’s journey, Lee continued her mothering career with gusto toward her 9 grandchildren and then 19 great grandchildren. Grandchildren LeeAnn Pluster (Matt); Christy Ozuna (Joel); Jami Wiedemer (Matt); Emily Davies (Mike); Ruth Meteer; Janelle (Meteer) Lenn; Ryan Antiel (Leslie); Nathan Antiel (Kayla); Seth Antiel (Soraya).
“Fierce-love” describes Lee’s attitude toward her family. She approached her entire family, extended family, and close friends with a single-minded intensity. She prayed rosaries for them—sometimes several a day. In a no-nonsense way she poked her pointed humor at them. To drive everyone around her to be the best that they can. She was her family’s biggest fan; the toughest coach and loudest cheerleader of every kid and grandkid she had. She didn’t just love and encourage her family, she championed them. She proclaimed their worth to the world. And needed no megaphone to do it…as anyone who was present in the stadium or theater knows well.
Olympia was born to Italian immigrant parents, Filippo Mario Capaldi and Antonia Dabaldo. At age 1, her family moved to an Italian community on Cardoni street in East Detroit. At age 3 she lost her Mother, Antonia. Her first stepmother died in childbirth. She and her 5 brothers and sisters were raised by her second stepmother, Giovanna. Filippo and Giovanna had three more children bringing the Capaldi sibling total to 9. Preceding Olympia in death were: Mary Lanza; Americo (Henry); Sabatino (Sam); Nicolina (Nelli) Patrello; Eva Ascione; Philip Jr.; Anthony. The youngest sibling, Loretta Powell lives in Coldwater, Michigan.
Olympia graduated from Highland Park High School in 1940. She entered the Mercy College school of Nursing in Ann Arbor Michigan. She graduated on Sept 6th, 1944 and earned her Registered Nurse credentials shortly after. She was a pioneer--probably the first woman from her East Detroit Italian community to attend college. Nursing school was very difficult for her, but her persistence and faith kept her going. She “made a promise to my Maker that if He helped me, I would be the best nurse in the world.” She was devoted to keeping that promise. She also made it her mission to help other young women who struggled with nursing school.
While at Mercy College, she met James William (“my beloved Jim”) Meteer in a dispute over “beer money.” She and her roommates collected coins in a can in the kitchen. Jim worked his way through the University of Michigan by bussing in the Mercy dining room. He became the chief suspect in the missing money. He proved his innocence by taking Lee and her roommates out for a beer. This was the start of a wartime romance. Jim was a Marine ROTC cadet, headed for war. They were engaged when he graduated and he reported to Quantico, Virginia for training. Lee’s father took the lead in planning a wedding. But a furlough for Jim and her father’s demands made a wedding date allusive. One day when her parents were gone, Lee and her younger sister, Eva, slipped out of the house and took a train to Jim’s base. They were married on September 16th, 1944 in Quantico. Their real honeymoon waited for Jim’s return from the Pacific almost two years later. They bought a travel trailer and spent 6 weeks in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, not knowing that later in life it would become their home for 40 years. After this honeymoon and Jim’s graduate school in forestry, they settled in the hamlet of Overton just outside of Wooster, Ohio and had a family. In 1965 came the move with a family of four and Jim’s mother, Julia, to L’Anse, Michigan.
The text above describes Lee’s “second” and “third” devotions—family and nursing. Her first devotion was her faith. In her later years she had the fortune of finding a second-soul mate. Dr. Ralph Gieselman, who preceded her in death. He left this tribute in a book he gave her. “For Lee, A servant of Jesus Christ and a reflector of God’s love to all. I am a witness and a recipient. Sola Dei Gloria.”
Indeed, for loaning us this woman and mother--glory to God alone.
Funeral Services will be held on Saturday, May 9th, 2020 at 10:00am in St. Andrew Catholic Church, 1899 McCoy Rd, Upper Arlington, OH 43220. Interment to follow at Wesley Chapel Cemetery in Hilliard, Ohio, where my beloved Jim and five generations of Meteers are buried. Lodging and gathering details will be posted on the Tidd Funeral Home web site. https://www.tiddfuneralservice.com/
A memorial mass will be held at Sacred Heart Church, L’Anse Michigan on Sunday July 12th. Reception to follow at the Church.
Olympia’s wishes were that memorial donations be made to her favorite charity. St Vincent de Paul Society serves the people she cared for. She was a founding member for the L’Anse chapter. 14 S. Main St, L’Anse MI 49946.
Some of the accounts in this tribute can be found in Lee’s autobiography “The Original White Tornado.” Copies available—contact family members.
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