Paul Vander Meer ’54

Paul Vander Meer
November 6, 1932 – September 26, 2020

Vancouver, Washington – Paul Vander Meer, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, California State University (CSU), Fresno died in his sleep on September 26, 2020.

He is survived by his wife, Carol, sons, William and Gregory Vander Meer, brother and his wife, Canute and Joyce Vander Meer, nieces, Kemry Butler, Tamsen Christensen, step-daughter-in-law, Roslynn Casterline and her children. He was born in Amoy (Xiamen), Fukien, (Fujian), China, to missionary parents, William and Alma Vander Meer, at the hospital of the Reformed Church in America.

In April 1942 when Shanghai was briefly captured by the Japanese, Paul, his mother and brother were interned in a Japanese prison camp at the Shanghai American School. On June 30, the Vander Meers joined a multi-national group for repatriation to the United States, sailing first on the Italian liner, Conte Verdi to Mozambique, then the Swedish liner, Gripsholm to New York.

After the untimely death of his father in New Jersey, Paul and his mother returned to China in 1946 where he attended Shanghai American School for three years. He avidly participated in sports, especially football and boxing and made good friends, staying in touch for a lifetime. Because of communism, he was evacuated in 1949 to the United States boarding one of the last ships leaving the city. In 1954 Paul graduated from Hope College, Holland, MI, then served two years in the U.S. Army. Upon Honorable Discharge, he was accepted for a year of independent study at St John’s College, Cambridge University.

In 1964, Paul married Kathleen Faverty and they soon moved to Chulin Village, Taiwan, where he researched farm fragmentation for his Ph.D. dissertation and subsequently received his degree from University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. In 1969 to his delight, twin sons were born in Philadelphia. Later, he and his family followed close friend George Nasse to teach Geography, at CSU where he retired in 2002. Divorced in 1985, Paul married Carol Casterline in 1988 and added her son Douglas Casterline (recently deceased) to the family.

Since his birth in China, Paul had been an international traveler and his love of travel attracted him to geography as a lifelong passion. His career included guest lectures in Taiwan, Japan, S. Korea, and China and research interests led him to various locations, including a sabbatical travelling through Europe. While he lived and travelled in many places, a part of his heart never left rural China.

Paul grew up in an area of China that spoke the Taiwanese dialect. As he learned Chinese playing with local children, he spoke with the fluency of a native. This allowed him to produce an unusually in-depth study of microfinance in the Tiawanese village of Chulin (1970 to 1990) with help from Bill Slusser, Hung Mu-shan and special help from Wang Yin-ho. Paul made many trips there both for friendship and for research, eventually publishing several papers and a book. Paul was awarded honorary citizenship by Chang-Hua Province. He leaves his dear friends, Wang Yin-ho, Kuo Pei-chiu, Tsai Tien-kai, Chang Hui-po and many others.

Paul was known for his love of Chinese food; he would pace several blocks on Lombard Street in San Francisco until he got the scent of South Fukien cuisine, distinct from all the other cuisines. At home in Fresno, during quiet evenings, he would reminisce with Chinese friends speaking in Taiwanese. Paul will be remembered for his genial impulsiveness, generosity, intense discussions, and quick wit. He will be missed by all.

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