Robert Meiswinkel: Master of Plaster
By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter
SAN FRANCISCO — As a third-generation plasterer, Robert Meiswinkel has had a hand in the plaster business (literally) from a young age. “My first encounter with plaster was at about five years old,” he recalls. “I remember putting my hand into a bucket of dry lime and observing how soft it felt.” By age 11, Robert had begun an apprenticeship with a journeyman plasterer—a capacity in which he continued to work throughout his high school years. “I spent my winter and summer breaks learning the trade on the jobsite. I started out with simple things like mixing the mud and transporting materials, and eventually I started performing the actual plaster work.”
After graduating from college, Robert continued to do plaster work, even if just intermittently to fund his travels. “I spent my early 20s hitchhiking and seeing the world,” he explains. “I’d come back from a month spent fly fishing in South America, work for a couple of months and be off again after I saved enough money. By the time I was 23 years old, I’d already been to 23 countries.” After getting married in 1995, Robert tapered down his world travelling and became more serious about the plaster trade as a full-time career.
Today, as vice president of RFJ Meiswinkel Company, Robert says his favorite part of his job is taking a plaster project from conception to reality. “I enjoy successfully executing the ideas of designers and architects. I take a lot of pride in the fact that we’re able to basically take power and water and create a piece of art.”
A resident of San Mateo (where he lives with his wife, Anna, and son, Nicolai), Robert expresses his appreciation for the Bay Area’s geographic diversity. “I enjoy being in such close proximity to so many different types of environments, including mountains, deserts and even glaciers,” he says. “Even though I work in an urban area, I’m still able to escape to some of the more peaceful settings that I hold close to my heart.”
Indeed, when he isn’t working, Robert relishes the chance to get away from it all, whether vacationing in a far-off country or retreating to his cabin in Idaho. In most cases, he takes these opportunities to pursue his favorite pastime: fly fishing. “Besides family and work, fly fishing is my passion,” he says. “Since steelhead trout need pure environments, fly fishing takes me to the most beautiful places on the planet, like Siberia and New Zealand. I also take the family for short fishing trips to our cabin on the Grand Ronde River in Idaho.” When he’s not wading in a stream, Robert enjoys family activities like going to the beach, hiking and being a spectator at Nicolai’s sporting events.
In his life and career, Robert believes in maintaining a balance between the present and the future. “As a young man, I coined a phrase that continues to stick with me: ‘Take care of today, because today is tomorrow’s memory,’” he says. “I believe that, in the end, all we have are our memories, which is why I make it a point to enjoy the present rather than wait for something at the end of the rainbow.”
When asked the first thing he’d do if he could retire tomorrow, Robert says he’d continue his search for the perfect fishing spot. “I’d continue to travel and find new areas where wild trout and steelhead inhabit. One thing I still want to do is visit the Southern Andes in Bolivia and fish for the Golden Dorado, also known as the ‘wolf of the Amazon.’”
Ask Me Anything!
Q: Do you prefer talk radio or music?
A: I try to listen to music, but I usually end up listening to sports talk radio.
Q: If you could time travel, would you go the past or the future?
A: I would go to the past, just to see what America was like before it became so modernized. Plus, all the old-timers I meet tell me how great the fishing was 50 years ago.
Q: What was your favorite toy as a child?
A: It’s a tie between my bicycle and my skateboard.
Q: Did you play any sports in high school?
A: I played basketball, golf and water polo.
Q: Do you collect anything?
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A: Old fly fishing equipment.