Tuesday, August 12, 2003

John W. Meyer drove thousands on carriage rides

By Chris Mayhew
The Cincinnati Enquirer

COVINGTON - John William Meyer knew horses, and people knew him as the man who drove carriages in downtown Cincinnati, Covington and Newport for more than 20 years.

Mr. Meyer died Friday at University Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati from injuries he received in a July 14 carriage accident on Second Street in Covington while trying to calm some horses, said his sister, Kathryn Bitter of Edgewood. He was 49.

Shortly before the accident, Mr. Meyer had asked the passengers he had picked up at Covington Landing to get out of the carriage because the horses were acting up, his sister said. After the passengers got out, the horses caused the carriage to topple on top of him once without injuring him. Several blocks later on Second Street, the carriage was flipped on top of him again, and he was fatally injured.

Mr. Meyer's sister said many people knew him from his carriage rides - from weddings to anniversaries, and everything in between.

"Everyone I run into now says, 'Oh, you mean the little man who drove the carriages?'" said Bitter. "He was just one of those people who was always there and now won't be."

Mr. Meyer, who was about 5-feet, 5-inches tall, knew the history of all the places he would pass during his horse-drawn tours, said his sister.

"He was a little walking history book," his sister said.

He was known for playing Santa Claus for many years in Park Hills and Devou Park, often complete with a sleigh he kept for use in the snow, Bitter said. He also played Santa Claus in MainStrasse Village in Covington for several years.

Mr. Meyer spent his entire life around horses, beginning with the family farm on Amsterdam Road in Fort Wright. Mr. Meyer lived on the farm until he sold it in 2002.

Mr. Meyer drove as an independent operator with his friend Jim Macke for the past five years, but he owned and operated his own company, Classical Carriage in the 1980s and early 1990s until he sold it.

Macke, of Walton, said Mr. Meyer would spend eight to 10 hours a day, seven days a week, driving his carriage if the weather permitted.

"I don't know anyone in the Cincinnati area who spent more hours or days driving a carriage for so many years," Macke said.

His sister said Mr. Meyer would be honored with a horse-drawn funeral procession Wednesday immediately after his funeral.

The procession will include a ceremonial riderless horse with boots and a saber hanging backwards from the saddle in a military fashion. His casket will be carried in a horse-drawn hearse.

The procession will travel south on Dixie Highway from Linnemann Funeral Home in Erlanger to St. Mary Mausoleum in Fort Mitchell.

Other survivors include a brother, Louis "Bucky" Meyer of Covington.

Visitation will be 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and service 1 p.m. Wednesday at Linnemann Funeral Home, 30 Commonwealth Ave., Erlanger. Entombment will be in St. Mary Mausoleum in Fort Mitchell.

Memorials can be made in memory of John William Meyer to the University Hospital Trauma Center, 234 Goodman Ave., Mail Location 774, Cincinnati 45219.


E-mail cmayhew@enquirer.com

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