Fredda B Meisel
Fredda Meisel has passed away after a brief illness in which, over a few weeks, she charmed a bevy of health care providers and hospice angels. Her journey here complete, Fredda expressed “looking forward to the next journey”, to reunite with her lifetime soul mate, Dr. Harris “Bubs” Meisel, as previously agreed, “right up there” on the third star of Orion’s belt.
Dr. Harris & Fredda came to Santa Barbara in 1965 when Harris became the Founding Medical Director for the Memorial Rehabilitation Hospital, now Cottage Rehabilitation Hospital. The couple were an inseparable pair of swans, gracefully navigating life with warmth and friendship throughout the Santa Barbara community. Their successes were many, with their greatest triumph being a 68 year relationship of enduring love that produced three children (Melody, Alex and Ben, and 4 grandchildren (Matthew, Joshua, Lea and Sophia).
Fredda was the radiant engine, and power plant of the family, as well as to many in the community, all of us fortunate to be graced by her caring, her humor and her dedication to a positive outlook both tenacious and unwavering.
During her almost 60 years in Santa Barbara, Fredda relished her volunteerism and board participation in many organizations: Santa Barbara Scholarship Foundation, Santa Barbara Youth Theater, Valle Verde (and the Meals on Wheels program), and the Junior League of Santa Barbara, where she helped to establish Public / Educational TV for the Central Coast as Founding President of Santa Barbara’s KCET-TV Affiliates. She was ever involved as a supportive partner to Harris and the Rehabilitation Institute at Santa Barbara, with boots on the ground and a smile on her face befriending all.
Fredda Meisel colored outside the lines, and endeavored to give and give and give in ways passionate, silly, thoughtful, mischievous, strategically heartfelt, impetuously loving, and ever self effacing. Her appetite to bring joy or comfort to others was insatiable. And as she neared her exit from this life, she seemed to grow more radiant and brazen in fulfilling her task of making others share in joy.
During her last few weeks, her children were privileged to hear time and again, “your mother was so important to me,” and “she was like a second mother to me.” She was an artist at bringing people together in community and Santa Barbara was the “village” she would build and nourish over her lifetime.
Fredda Doris Blechman was born in Coatesville, Pennsylvania on February 23, 1935, and had a very challenging childhood. In this understatement lies the core and essence of Fredda’s great tenacity and power in giving to others through her dedication to kindness and positive action.
At an early age she found the power of her own voice through writing. In 1949, at the age of 14 she wrote scripts and hosted a radio show, “Get Ready for Freddy-Tips for Teens,” using the media format to give diverse student voices a venue to share common values. Her goal was to further understanding and diversity in her community and to help foster integration of black and white students in local schools.
In 1959 the couple moved to Harrisburg where Fredda joined WHP-TV to host the Romper Room genre, “Aunt Mary’s Birthday Party,” while Harris entered a medical internship nearby. Aunt Mary’s television career ended shortly after Fredda sipped a sponsor’s chocolate milk on live TV, and promptly threw up as a result of morning sickness.
The pregnant Meisels left Pennsylvania in 1960, and went to the Navajo reservation, where Harris’s Public Health Service deployment brought them to the Shiprock Public Health Hospital in Farmington, New Mexico. Fredda gave birth to Melody and 11 ½ months later to Alex. The newborns received the honor of a Navajo Ceremonial “Sing” to celebrate their births, and the family developed deep, lifelong, friendships in the Diné community. In 1963 Harris became the Chief Resident in Rehab Medicine at Stanford University, and in 1965 the family moved to Santa Barbara where both Fredda and Harris worked to establish the Memorial Rehabilitation Hospital that would eventually become what today is the Cottage Rehabilitation Hospital Santa Barbara.
While raising a family, and working with many organizations, Fredda also had a passion for cooking, creativity and contesting. She was a marketing wordsmith who would enter contests and sweepstakes with clever recipes and targeted strategies. She won trips to Montreal, Australia, Amsterdam, Hong Kong, Singapore and China, and was a successful business in the eyes of the IRS. She took great pride in laughing with family members who received surprise “consolation prizes” in their mailboxes, after Fredda would enter their names into competitions without their knowing.
Unconventional, warm, loving and a strident force for good, Fredda will be missed. She was an OG “influencer” and made sure that before she left this life, she got one last voting ballot signed, sealed and delivered.
She was preceded in death by her husband, Dr. Harris Meisel, and she is survived by her children, and grand children, Melody Meisel Klein (Steven), Alex (Dr. Jacqui Drobis Meisel, and children Matthew and Joshua), and Ben (children Lea and Sophia Meisel). A celebration of her life will occur at a future date, and in lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to the Alpha Resource Center of Santa Barbara. https://alphasb.org/donate