Longtime Nevada County school board member Jack Meeks ID’d as suicide victim
The man who committed suicide Thursday at a Grass Valley gun range has been identified as John “Jack” Meeks, 93, Nevada County sheriff’s spokesman Andrew Trygg confirmed Tuesday.
Meeks, a 30-year resident of Penn Valley, served on the Grass Valley School District board for 15 years and the Nevada County Board of Education from 1994 to 2014, running for reelection as recently as 2018. Meeks’ health had declined since then, and he moved into an assisted living facility last May, said longtime friend Ann Rubenstein.
Rubenstein and other friends were shocked and devastated by the news of his death after authorities say Meeks walked into The Range Thursday afternoon with a friend, who has not been identified, and shot himself with a gun they brought with them.
Meeks had fallen several times in recent months and was using a walker, said Rubenstein, the executor of Meeks’ estate.
“I think he was afraid he was losing it,” she said Tuesday. “It still is a shock. … I feel lost.”
Meeks was a World War II veteran, serving in France, Rubenstein said. He received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Syracuse University in 1950 and a master’s in biochemistry from Cornell University in 1971. He then taught high school until his retirement in the late 1980s.
Meek and Rubenstein bonded over their shared loved of horses back in Southern California in the early 1980s, and he introduced her to endurance riding, she said.
“He had done Tevis a few times,” she said, referring to the 100-mile Western States Trail Ride.
Rubenstein “crewed” for him unofficially in 1985 even though he had planned to “go frontier,” without a crew. She then began training to ride it herself in 1987.
“He was my mentor,” she said. “I trained with him. In 1987, I came up to ride the Tevis and we rode together.”
Meeks then returned the favor and crewed for her several times, starting in 1990, Rubenstein said.
“Jack was like a father figure for me,” she said.
Meeks moved to Nevada County in 1988 and settled on a 6-acre ranch on Spenceville Road with a number of animals, Rubenstein said.
“He had nine dogs at one time,” said longtime friend Marianne Slade-Troutman, who served on the county education board with Meeks for 20 years. “He was such a great lover of animals. People would drop off their dogs at his place and Jack would take them in and get them spayed or neutered. ,,, The last thing he said to me was that he missed his dogs.”
Slade-Troutman noted that not only had Meeks served on the education board for two decades, he also ran several times, unsuccessfully, for the Nevada Irrigation District board.
“He just didn’t think people should go without having a choice, that’s why he ran,” she said.
Nevada County Superintendent of Schools Scott Lay called Meeks’ death a “tragic event.”
“Jack dedicated 35 years to public service, to improve our schools, improve the educational delivery for students in Nevada County, and for that we admire him,” Lay said. “He certainly will be missed in the community.”
Former schools superintendent Holly Hermansen, who worked with Meeks for seven years, said it was clear how much he cared about the students and schools.
“Jack took his job as a board member very seriously,” she said. “It was very important to him, he went to every board event and activity.”
Meeks had volunteered with the Nevada County Beekeepers Association, Toastmasters, and with serving breakfasts to seniors, Slade-Troutman said. He also worked with her as a videographer for a community access television show she produced called “Hometown USA.”
Rubenstein said Meeks’ will gives all his money to charities, including the land trust and animal rescues, adding, “he was an amazing person.”
Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at email@example.com.
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