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Stephanie and Carl Meinecke, a divorced couple, die on the same day in separate facilities

Stephanie Maryann Meinecke, a homemaker who had a 20-year career as a nurse after helping her husband, Carl F. Meinecke Jr., raise their four children, died of congestive heart failure at Mercy Ridge retirement community in Timonium on Wednesday. She was 90.

Mr. Meinecke, a retired sales executive for the Exxon Corp., died of complications from pneumonia at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Towson later the same day. He was 92.

The couple divorced in 1983 after 32 years of marriage, but family members said they remained close for the rest of their lives.

The couple’s daughter, Nancy J. Bechtol of Silver Spring, said it was fitting — and characteristic of her parents’ 68-year relationship — that they died on the same day.

“My first reaction was to think that they could never be apart,” Bechtol said. “They could never be together 24/7, but they could never be apart.”

“They were divorced as long as they were married, but they still did everything together,” said Cindy M. Lotz of Forest Hill, also the couple’s daughter. “We as a family did everything together. Their hearts were never separated.”

Carl Meinecke was born in Baltimore on June 2, 1926, to Catherine J. Geller and Carl F. Meinecke Sr., and grew up in a predominantly German neighborhood on East Avenue near Patterson Park. He attended Patterson Park High School.

After spending two years in Panama with the U.S. Navy, he returned to Baltimore and got a job pumping gas at an Esso station. He worked his way up the company ranks, became an award-winning salesman and helped the organization — by then known as Exxon — open its first auto-care facilities in the Baltimore area.

Mr. Meinecke worked for the company for more than four decades.

Mrs. Meinecke was born in Baltimore on Jan. 12, 1928, to Mary Tekl and John Truszkowski. She grew up on Decker Street, a few blocks from the home of her future husband, but the two never met as children.

She graduated from The Catholic High School of Baltimore in 1945 and attended Georgetown University in Washington, where she earned her degree as a registered nurse in 1949.

Her first job as a nurse was at the old Sinai Hospital in Baltimore, which would be the site of their first meeting.

She was waiting for a bus in front of the hospital one day in 1950 when Mr. Meinecke pulled up in his car and offered her a ride home.

She accepted.

“She was a beautiful woman, so I understand why he was interested, but I really can’t say why she got into a car with him,” Mrs. Bechtol said. “That’s when it all began.”

They married less than a year later, in February 1951, at St. Casimir Catholic Church in Baltimore.

Their relationship, their daughters said, was an intense, odd-couple sort of connection characterized by a mutual commitment to raising a close-knit family and a penchant for disagreeing over matters big and small.

“He was Lutheran and she was Catholic; he was Republican and she was a Democrat. If she said it was sunny out, he’d say it was raining. They fought like cats and dogs,” Mrs. Bechtol said with a laugh.

Another point of contention: Mr. Meinecke didn’t want his wife to work outside the home if it wasn’t financially necessary, his daughters said, and she always wanted to put her nursing degree to use.

They divorced after the children were grown, and the day-to-day separation proved an unexpected boon for their relationship.

Mrs. Meinecke became certified as a gerontology nurse in 1986 and worked at Stella Maris for 20 years before retiring at age 70. Mr. Meinecke took up golf and bicycling and spent 25 winters in Jupiter, Fla.

The couple’s children remember growing up in a tight family that celebrated birthdays and holidays together and vacationed in Ocean City.

Mrs. Meinecke taught them to cook, sharing her beloved Polish recipes, including one for a cake with strawberry icing that became a staple of summer get-togethers.

She also took her daughters and son, and later grandchildren, on walks along the Avenue and to see other traditional Baltimore neighborhoods.

As the children had children, Mr. and Mrs. Meinecke remained strong and loving presences at birthdays, holidays and other times.

He frequently took his ex-wife to breakfast or lunch, then dropped her off at her home as they went their separate ways.

They owned condominiums in Ocean City that were so close to each other they could see one another’s balconies.

Mrs. Lotz said the children would stay at Mrs. Meinecke’s condominium during trips there, but her father would come by daily for lunch, conversation and outings, and the couple got along beautifully.

“Once they got past that day-to-day, 24-hour thing, they just became best friends,” Mrs. Lotz said.

After retiring, Mr. Meinecke split time between his home at Edenwald retirement community in Towson, Ocean City and Florida. Mrs. Meinecke split time between her place in Ocean City and Mercy Ridge.

They last saw each in July, when Mrs. Bechtol drove Mrs. Meinecke to Mr. Meinecke’s home, as she often did, for crab cakes and conversation.

Each had suffered a broken left hip in separate falls during the past year, and Mr. Meinecke remained in a wheelchair while Mrs. Meinecke, who used a walker, was more mobile.

They fell ill separately on Aug. 5; Mr. Meinecke with an apparent blood clot, Mrs. Meinecke likely from a stroke.

Mrs. Meinecke died about a minute after midnight Wednesday, Mr. Meinecke at 9:47 that night.

Mrs. Bechtol and Mrs. Lotz said they were talking on the phone during a thunderstorm moments after learning of their father’s death when lightning flashed through the sky, followed by a thunderclap.

“You know what that is, don’t you?” Mrs. Lotz remarked. “That’s Mom saying, ‘I gave you almost 24 hours to die on the same day. What the hell took you so long?’”

In addition to their two daughters, the Meineckes are survived by a son, Carl F. Meinecke, of Seattle; another daughter, Kathryn A. Meinecke of Towson; four grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.

A viewing for the Meineckes will be held at 10 a.m. Monday at Stella Maris Chapel in Timonium, followed by an 11 a.m. funeral service. A luncheon will be served at noon at Mercy Ridge, and the interment will be at 2:15 p.m. at St. Stanislaus Cemetery in Baltimore.

At the request of the family, memorial contributions may be made to Shriners Hospital for Children, Boumi Shriners, 5050 King Ave., Baltimore.

jonpitts@baltsun.com

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