Marilyn Meyer

[ Age 80] The exercise instructor, an early proponent of women's fitness, once had a following that included Oprah Winfrey.

August 05, 2007|By Alia Malik | Alia Malik,SUN REPORTER

Marilyn Barbara Meyer, an exercise instructor and women's fitness proponent, died Monday at her Cross Keys home of Shy-Drager syndrome, a nervous system disorder. She was 80.

Born Marilyn Baylinson in York, Pa., Mrs. Meyer spent her early childhood in that town with her parents and older brother before moving to a nearby dairy farm. She attended school in York while working on the farm.

As a child, Mrs. Meyer liked to garden, ride horses and train dogs, said son John Meyer of Owings Mills.

"She was very much an outdoor person," Mr. Meyer said.

Mrs. Meyer graduated from the University of Wisconsin in Madison in 1948 with a bachelor's degree in modern dance and physical education.

After graduating, Mrs. Meyer moved to Baltimore, where she became a social worker and enjoyed playing golf. Through mutual friends, she met Albert Norman Meyer on a golf course. The two were wed in 1950. Mr. Meyer died in 1996.

Mrs. Meyer left her job as a social worker after about a year and devoted her time to her growing family. After having two daughters and moving to Pikesville, she started teaching exercise classes to adults in the early 1960s. She began teaching at the Jewish Community Center on Park Heights Avenue and at Pikesville Middle School, specializing in stretching and low-impact aerobics for women.

Mrs. Meyer taught classes for decades and became an early advocate of women's fitness, her son said. From 1972 to 1983, Mrs. Meyer taught five fitness classes a week at Park School in Baltimore. Her program, called Body Dynamics, developed a community following. In the late 1970s, Oriole Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer took her classes, and so did talk-show host Oprah Winfrey when she worked in local television, her son said.

"She was a woman ahead of her time," said former student Marilyn Levin, 66, of Pikesville. "She was warm. She was enthusiastic. She was peppy. ... It was just a smile to be in her class."

In the early 1980s, Mrs. Meyer opened California Body Works, an exercise studio in Stevenson. Mrs. Meyer and a co-owner hired other teachers and offered a dozen fitness classes each season. The studio closed in 1984, a few years after it opened.

In the late 1980s, Mrs. Meyer taught aquatic fitness classes at private pools in the Baltimore area.

In her spare time, Mrs. Meyer liked to play tennis and go on walks, and was once seen cross-country skiing down Stevenson Road in a snowstorm, Mr. Meyer said. Her fitness approach included healthful eating, and she had a reputation as a great cook and hostess.

"I once went shopping with her," said longtime friend Carol Hirsch, 83, of Baltimore. "She knew the world. ... She would stop to talk with everybody, and then I decided to stop shopping with her. It was frustrating."

In the early 1990s, Mrs. Meyer volunteered as a consumer advocate for the Council for Jewish Women. She also volunteered for the Associated Jewish Charities of Baltimore and for the March of Dimes.

Funeral services were held Wednesday.

In addition to her son, Mrs. Meyer is survived by two daughters, Betsey Meyer of San Diego and Laurie Chilcoat of Columbia; and four grandchildren.

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