RIP, Parke Meek: Eames design team member, steampunk wizard, wunderkammer guardian


(Image: Claes Andreasson, via American Public Media's "Weekend America" archives)

20081011_jadis_1_27.jpgBoing Boing reader Genise Schnitman says, "Parke Meek, the self-taught steampunk technical wizard who worked in the Eames office and was the curmudgeonly doyen of Jadis, the retrofuturist wunderkammer on Main Street in Santa Monica, passed away at 86."

I did not know him, but have peeked in the windows of that wonderful store many times. What sad news. I asked Eames Demetrios (director of the Eames Office, Chairman of the Board of the Eames Foundation which takes care of the Eames House) if he would like to share some thoughts with our readers on Mr. Meek's passing. Eames writes,

I have known Parke all my life, so it is terribly hard to imagine the world without him—without knowing he is there to reminisce with, get an engagingly/irascibly direct comment from, or just to walk through his worlds of treasures. He told me he loved his time at the Eames Office because every day he came in, there was always some new project or task at hand: "you never knew what you were going to do," he said. And he always had that spirit of fun. People sometimes called him a curmudgeon, and you can almost see why, but he was always—even to the end—having way too much fun in life for that ever to be even close to the right word.

Snip from the obituary in the Santa Monica local paper:

Meek was born Jan. 1, 1924 in a small town in rural Indiana. During his youth, he would end up selling liquor out of the back of a taxi cab during prohibition, Bloch said, before moving on to the United States Marine Corps. While stationed at Guadalcanal, Meek was put in charge of a cannon at the young age of 18 because of his mastery of physics, able to aim and shoot better than his superiors.

The entire obituary is a must-read: Famed Eames design team member dies (Santa Monica Daily Press)

Weekend America produced this radio feature on Meek's Jadis antique store and prop shop in Santa Monica. The photo at the top of this blog post was featured in an accompanying image slideshow. When you enter Jadis, you see "a metallic replica of the robot from Fritz Lang's 1927 sci-fi movie Metropolis flanked by model boats with big motorized flapping wings." Inside, there's all kinds of neat old lab equipment. A magical place, created by a fascinating man.

Flickr user Mark Garland has a set of photos shot inside Jadis.