Stanley Mehr, long-time resident of McLean and co-founder of Mehr Brothers Flowers, passed away at his home Monday, Jan. 14, following a brief illness.
Mehr was 94.
At the time of his death he was surrounded by those to whom he been closest in recent years, including his daughter Julia, and two dear friends who were also employees—Zoe Sollenberger, who had worked at Mehr Brothers for 38 years, and Tshering Tamang, who had been an employee for 25.
Mehr and his brother Seymour began farming flowers on a plot of land off Old Dominion Road in 1951, operating under the name Mehr Brothers Flowers. In those early years, Mehr was employed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, where he had a distinguished career until his retirement more than 35 years ago.
Seymour passed away from leukemia in 1957, and Stanley kept the business going, retaining the name Mehr Brothers in tribute to his beloved sibling.
For decades, Mehr resisted offers from developers to buy his four-acre parcel. In a 2011 profile in the Fairfax Times, he questioned the wisdom of selling, even though a sale would have provided substantial earnings. “Sit in an apartment in a high rise?” he stated rhetorically, referring to his deep love of land far beyond any need for material wealth.
Mehr was one of McLean’s more engaging and even enigmatic characters. Many of his customers became close friends, and he returned the friendships with affection, concern and empathy.
Frequently they stopped by Mehr Brothers, or Stanley would go to their houses, simply to discuss current events, engage in political debates, or share a laugh. Customers—and particularly his customers’ children—enjoyed all the chickens, ducks and pigeons that resided on his property. He never invested in cable television because, as he had stated, he never had enough time to read, let alone watch TV. He was known for his passion for knowledge and his penchant for questioning the world around him. It was often said that no visitor came up his dirt driveway without being asked about their pastimes, pursuits and livelihoods.
Stan was the first born of Joseph and Celia Mehr, Jewish immigrants who raised their children in Coney Island, NY. It was a busy household with five children—in addition to Seymour, there were three sisters, Rosalind, Gloria and Rhoda—but Stanley made time to grow plants and raise pigeons on rooftops. This was one hobby put to good use when he enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving overseas in the Army Pigeon Corp during World War II. During his military service in Austria, he met his future wife Maria and brought her home to the U.S. Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Mehr enjoyed a 65-year marriage, until Maria’s death in 2010.
After receiving a degree in agriculture from the University of Wisconsin, he worked for the soil conservation service, teaching farmers and young men from the civilian conservation corps about contour farming and other erosion control practices. Just before he joined the army, he volunteered with numerous other young people to help harvest crops as many farmers and farm workers had been called to serve in the war. After the war he helped with the agricultural reconstruction of Europe.
Stanley Mehr is survived by his daughter Julia Mehr, and his sisters Rosalind Krupp of Maplewood, NJ and Rhoda Young of Springfield, VA.
For those who wish to make a memoriam donation, the family suggests the American Farmland Trust, an organization that Mr. Mehr supported throughout his life. A memorial service is being planned for this spring.
This obituary was sent to Patch by Cynthia Young, a family member.