Steve Meyer, Vail’s first dentist, kept the town smiling
VAIL — Vail’s first dentist, Steve Meyer, was a guy’s guy and a car guy. He was also Kathy’s guy.
He and his wife, Kathy Meyer, had huge garage. Steve Meyer’s garage was finished long before the house was, and he filled it with the most amazing cars you can imagine, and motorcycles and skis …
“Anything that went fast, with or without a motor,” Kathy Meyer said.
Not only did Steve Meyer live a long time, he lived. He died a few weeks ago.
“Steve was important to all of us, and for so many reasons,” said longtime Vailite Bill Hanlon.
But before we can tell you that story, we have to tell you this story.
In those days …
Steve grew up water skiing in Wisconsin, drove race cars and was a ski racer.
He was an Air Force captain and a dentist — he started a dental practice in Boulder. He was also an avid skier. As so many others, he was in the mountains all the time, especially in Vail.
When Vail was still a rough and tumble place with dirt streets, the town had a medical clinic long before there was a hospital. This was the mid 1960s and Vail was trying to recruit a full-time dentist. Dr. Tom Steinberg had become Vail’s first full-time physician, followed closely by Dr. Jack Eck, fresh off a stint in Vietnam.
“It was quite a time in the town’s history,” Eck said. “The streets were not paved and people tied their horses up to the business fronts at the time.”
But they really needed a dentist, Eck explained.
Steve Meyer became Vail’s third medical professional and first dentist.
“It was a really tight community,” Kathy Meyer said.
Of the three, whoever drove the ambulance home that night was on call.
Flo Steinberg, Tom Steinberg’s wife, used to drive the ambulance to Leadville to buy groceries.
So Vail had a dentist, but people still called Eck. There was one 3 a.m. call from a patient with a toothache:
“Have you thought of calling a dentist?” Eck asked.
“I can’t call a dentist, it’s 3 o’clock in the morning!” the patient replied.
Work hard, play hard
Steve Meyer had an office in the same clinic, where he treated patients and cooked up schemes for general fun-having. Those schemes usually involved skiing, race cars and horses and piloting all of them at speeds which might make you wonder how well he, a highly trained medical professional, had honed his sense of self-preservation.
“He was a colorful guy, but not a flake,” Eck said. “We were here to have fun, but we also worked hard.”
For the Vail town race series, businesses and bars put together teams with names like the Downhill Debutantes.
“He was exceptionally bright, but not political. He was a big part of the town in those early days. He loved to ski and did very well in the town races,” Eck said.
Everyone did everything in those days. Steve taught skiing and was involved in Ski Club Vail.
Steve and Kathy Meyer started the Colorado Grand and Kathy ran the Jerry Ford Invitational. Steve drove in the Colorado Grand and golfed in the JFI.
Steve Meyer took care of business and was one of the early investors in the land at the bottom of Beaver Creek.
Eventually Steve Meyer headed down the mountain to Denver become a professor at the University of Colorado dental school. He taught classes four days a week, starting the comprehensive care program — how to run practices. On Fridays, CU allowed faculty to see patients, and many Vail locals made the trek to Denver.
When he moved to Denver, Steve Meyer sold his practice in to Dr. Ronald Zastrow. Ronald’s son, Dr. Ryan Zastrow, was one of Steve Meyer’s students, Kathy Meyer said.
Steve and Kathy Meyer bought a boat and sailed anywhere the breeze took them for a couple of years. But Vail was always right on the horizon, so they were never gone for long.
Kathy Meyer loves horses and Steve Meyer loved Kathy. Kathy trained Arabian horses at Berry Creek Ranch in Edwards, they bought 40 acres in Ridgway and eventually they migrated to Lexington, Kentucky, where she took a position in an equestrian organization.
How fast does it go?
Steve Meyer was a car fanatic.
“He was an incredibly knowledgeable collector, especially about all kinds of pre-war race cars,” Kathy Meyer said.
He raced Formula V cars and collected and restored vintage race cars.
He beat Augie Pabst in the Road America Ferrari Challenge. He rode and raced motorcycles at Daytona, raced a Bugatti, owned and raced a Ford GT-40 he bought as a street car, he won the Bugatti challenge at Laguna Seca and raced the Ford GT-40 in Steamboat Springs.
“He owned scores of significant cars, but the Ford GT-40 and his Bugatti were his favorites,” Kathy Meyer said.