John Nicholas Meisten III, 76, of Boothbay, Maine died June 30, 2018 at University of Cincinnati Medical Center after an eight-year battle with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis. He had become acutely ill while traveling from Arizona to his home in Maine only one week before his death.
John is survived by his beloved wife of 53 years, Catherine Ann (Layne) Meisten of Boothbay; daughter, Deborah (Meisten) Nagarajan of Cincinnati, Ohio; daughter Kimberly Doreen Meisten of Maple Grove, Minnesota; son-in-law Raj Nagarajan; and grandson Nicholas Nagarajan, both of Cincinnati, Ohio.
John was born May 31, 1942 in Rockville Center, Long Island, New York. He attended school on Long Island, graduating from St. Paul’s Prep in Garden City. John graduated from the University of Georgia, where he was a member of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, in 1965 with a BA in economics and philosophy. In 1971, he received an MS degree in education management from the University of Southern California.
Upon graduation from college, John began working as a management trainee with the Continental Grain Company, Chicago Board of Trade where he remained until March 1967 when he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. He attended Officer Training School at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas and was commissioned as a second lieutenant. He served in Tacoma, Washington and overseas where he was designated Junior Officer of the Year in 1970. John received an honorable discharge in June 1971.
On Sept. 27, 1971, he entered duty with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which had been his dream ever since visiting FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C. as a child. After completion of training school in January 1972, he worked as a Special Agent assigned to the Denver Division, transferring in 1973 to Arkansas where he worked cases including Klan, criminal, financial and security matters.
In November 1977, his next transfer took John to FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C., where he implemented the New Special Agent Selection System (NSASS). He also spent many years at the Washington Field Office supervising first a criminal squad, including the investigation into the 1981 attempted assassination of President Reagan, and later a counterintelligence squad responsible for KGB investigations. Significant cases he supervised included the spies Ronald Pelton and Edward Lee Howard and the Soviet “defector” Vitaly Yurchenko. John’s final Bureau assignment was teaching at the FBI Academy.
Following his retirement, John continued to work with the Special Prosecutor handling the Whitewater investigation and, until 2014, as a contract investigator for the FBI and other government agencies.
Though John rarely spoke of his career to anyone but former FBI agents or his closest friends, he had a calling to serve his country and a passion for justice. The contributions he made during his career with the FBI, along with the relationships he made with so many exceptional men and women in his FBI family, were some of the most fulfilling and cherished times of his life. He was a proud member of the DC Chapter of the American Legion, the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI and the FBI Agents Association among others.
Retiring soon after his eligibility afforded, John and Catherine the opportunity to travel to many national parks, the beaches of Normandy, the Hermitage Museum, Wales and the Cotswolds, and many trips within the USA. His interests, like his life, contained depth and breadth, but highlights included his love of boating, camping, photography, reading, woodworking, motorcycle riding, and in his younger days, drag racing and playing pool.
He was an active member of several organizations in Boothbay, including the Boothbay Region Fish and Game Association, Wawenock Sail & Power Squadron, Lincoln County Rifle Club, Boothbay Region YMCA and Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens.
Always active, he could be found teaching his grandson to shoot a rifle and steer a boat, taking photographs, discussing great books, teaching Ocean Navigation for the U.S. Power Squadron, listening to opera, watching Yankees games, or sharing a Manhattan with friends. He loved asking about others, listening to stories and sharing his own, and had an insight and wisdom that was part innate and part hard-earned.
John had a youthful enthusiasm for living and learning, an adventurous spirit and an inquisitive mind. Well before age 10, he walked alone to the local chemist and inquired by name for all the ingredients in gunpowder (and received them!). During his teen years, his father was called to come have a talk with the local police about John’s drag racing in the family Buick that John had “souped up.”
He had a notorious attention to detail and an ability to develop an authentic personal connection with anyone at a shockingly rapid speed. While stopping to get gas one day, his daughter thought he had disappeared. She was not surprised to find him in the next aisle over exchanging business cards with a complete stranger, who had a motorcycle John admired.
John had a heart for the underdog. When he was transferred to D.C., he was saddened to leave behind his Little Brother in the Big Brother/Big Sister program. He was well-established as an easy mark for neighborhood kids coming to the front door selling anything at all, and he never walked past a Salvation Army bucket without stopping.
Throughout his life, John’s first priority was always his family. He learned from his family the principles that would guide his future: Use your life to honor God, be faithful in the task before you, live with integrity, hope, compassion, and earnest appreciation for the simple things in life.
John was blessed and humbled to have shared a great and pure love with his wife, and have had the absolute love, respect and joy of his two daughters and son-in-law, and the adoration of his grandson, who shares many of his traits, as well as the gifts of so many dear friendships, both newer and time-tested. He also shared fourteen years with his beloved yellow lab Nugget.
He woke up most days with a spring in his step, ready to embrace the day and see what he could do, learn, give, enjoy, and teach. Three weeks before his death, he was trying to arrange for someone to help him go skydiving. He told his physician just over a year ago that he did not have a “bucket list,” that he lived a wonderful life, full of meaning and with no regrets. He always acknowledged God’s hand over his life and he was blessed to be surrounded by family at the time of his passing.
Funeral services will be held at Arlington National Cemetery at a date yet to be determined, followed by a celebration of his life. All are welcome to attend. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI General Scholarship Fund (https://www.socxfbi.org/donations/donate.asp?id=6305) and the Freedom Service Dogs of America (https://freedomservicedogs.org).