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HomeNewsLocal newsRemembering Rich Meyer of the Lime Inn on St. John

Remembering Rich Meyer of the Lime Inn on St. John

Rich Meyer, who passed on May 16, was well known to visitors and residents as one of the all-time great restauranteurs on St. John.

Rich Meyer at his customary position as host at the Lime Inn. (Photo courtesy of the Meyer family)

Rich and his wife Chris operated the Lime Inn restaurant in Cruz Bay for 32 years until they were finally ready to retire in 2016; at that point, their daughter Chelsea and her husband Richard Baranowski took it over; although it has changed to reflect the times, the Lime Inn continues as the longest-running family-owned restaurant on St. John.

Rich and Chris first visited St. John in 1981 after watching “The Four Seasons,” a popular movie directed by Alan Alda, which was filmed, in part, aboard a sailboat at Hawksnest Bay on St. John.

“Look at the color of the water!” Chris marveled to Rich as they watched the film. When it was over, they noted in the credits a thank you to the Virgin Islands National Park and reached for their globe. “I found two tiny dots representing the Virgin Islands,” Chris recalls, “and said, ‘We’re going.'”

At the time, Rich and Chris were living in New Jersey. Chris, who was working as a waitress at a diner, took all the quarters from her tips and filled a giant jar until she had enough money for two plane tickets. They camped at Cinnamon Bay in the National Park, and Chris said she cried all the way back to Newark Airport when they left.

Rich holds on to Chris and a beer in the early days of the Lime Inn. (Photo courtesy of the Meyer family)

When they got back to New Jersey, Chris taught herself to cook by reading cookbooks from the public library and took over the management of the kitchen in a small restaurant. Rich was very content, she said, with his own successful trucking company. “He spent his whole life in New Jersey, but my dad was in the Air Force, and I was used to moving every few years, and I was obsessed with St. John.”

In 1984, they made the move to St. John and took over the lease for the Lime Inn, then a bar owned by Tom Funkhauser, who used it as a venue for his band, the Cow Bay Cruz Boys. In those days, good restaurants were scarce in Cruz Bay, and the Lime Inn caught on for its moderate prices and consistently tasty food.

Chris cooked and managed the restaurant, but she soon became exhausted and begged Rich to serve as the maître d’; he agreed to do it, but only on a temporary basis. That turned out to be 32 years.

“Rich became a legend,” said Chris. “He talked to every customer and got to know them. He remembered them — their names, what they did for a living, their kids — and every time they came back to St. John, they, their children and even grandchildren, would return to the Lime Inn to see Rich. Whenever we traveled anywhere in the world, we’d run into people who’d recognize him. Of course, the hook helped.”

Rich lost the use of his left arm and hand following a motorcycle accident at the age of 16 and wore a prosthesis with a hook starting at 20. It never stopped him from whipping tables around the restaurant or proudly carrying a giant tuna back from Red Hook, walking directly through the dining room with it perched on his shoulder, and wowing the customers. The hook gave him a certain cache’ and became a feature in the stories diners would tell.

“He’d tell the kids that his hand was bitten off by a shark or some other tall tale of piracy, and their eyes would be saucers,” said Chris. “He’d make it into an epic. Little kids loved him. They’d follow him around like he was the Pied Piper.

Later in life, his nickname became “Dabba,” as in “Yabba dabba doo,” his rallying cry to his five grandkids and the many other island children that became the light of his life, Chris said.

Rich holds grandson Atherton Baranowski. (Photo courtesy of the Meyer family)

Chris and Rich met while they were in high school shortly after the motorcycle accident; he was still in a body cast. She had noticed him before, standing next to a gorgeous blonde, and thought, “That is the most beautiful boy I’ve ever seen,” but figured he was not available. The blonde turned out to be his sister, and soon Rich was blowing spitballs at Chris in the cafeteria. They were together from then on.

Rich defied death many times during his life. One time, just shortly after moving to St. John in 1984, Rich and a friend were out in an inflatable dinghy when they were literally run over by a speeding fishing boat that never bothered to stop. “Rich had blue bottom paint from the fishing boat all down the side of his body,” Chris said.

“Not only was Rich in several very traumatic accidents, he worked harder than any one person I’d ever met in my entire life,” Chris added. “He charged through every day, no matter the pain.”

In April, Rich and Chris went up to North Carolina to visit their younger daughter Kasey and her family when Rich started experiencing severe back pain. A trip to the emergency room showed that he was suffering from massive degeneration of his spine. This led to a series of complications, including kidney failure and a heart attack.

Chris, daughter Kasey, and Rich pose in a pottery studio. (Photo courtesy of Meyer family)

“He fought for his life for an entire month,” said Chris. “He was like the guy in the Western who gets shot six times but is still standing.”

Rich didn’t compete in St. John’s signature athletic events, but Chris usually did, and Rich was always there to flip burgers after the Friends of the V.I. National Park’s Beach-to-Beach Power Swim and give out fruit at the end of the Eight Tuff Miles road race. He was always ready to lend a hand, no pun intended, at community events.

Rich and Chris with two of their five grandchildren Mako, top, and Atherton. (Photo courtesy of Meyer family)

For those wishing to make a contribution in honor of his spirit, Shriners Children’s Hospital “was near and dear to Rich’s heart,” said Chris,

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