A retirement community on Mercer Island is mourning the loss of a resident who connected the Island to one of the most beloved movies of all time, “The Wizard of Oz.”
Meredythe Glass was one of the last surviving cast members of “The Wizard of Oz.” She died on Saturday, Aug. 31, at the age of 98.
Linda Tammone sorted through the last box of her mother’s belongings at Covenant Shores retirement community. Filled with photographs, newspaper clippings, cards, letters and memorabilia, her voice catches in her throat as she speaks.
“So many people were touched by her,” she said.
Glass was 18 when she landed her first acting job as an extra on “The Wizard of Oz” in 1939. She was one of about 100 “green ladies,” Tammone said.
Glass got the part because her mother’s first cousin, Mervyn LeRoy, was the director-producer of the film. When she turned 18, LeRoy got her a Screen Actor’s Guild card.
After “The Wizard of Oz,” Glass went on to work in Hollywood for a few more years, mostly as an extra or stand-in. She secured a small contract with Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM) studio, appearing as an extra in several Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney films, including “Babes on Broadway,” “Strike up the Band,” and “Babes in Arms.”
Glass also stood in for Vivian Leigh during the 1940s filming of “Waterloo Bridge,” Leigh’s first film after “Gone With the Wind.”
Though her life began in children’s radio theater in San Francisco before moving to Hollywood, Glass told the Reporter in February she never wanted to be an actress.
“I didn’t want to be an actress. I wanted to go to college,” she said in early 2019, but she graduated from high school during the Depression and took the work she could get. She was paid $16 a day to work on “The Wizard of Oz,” which was “a fortune in those days.”
After leaving Hollywood at 21, Glass married her husband and had two children.
But her life didn’t stop there.
After Hollywood, Glass became a psychiatric technician at Napa State Hospital and was later promoted to a psychiatric group therapist at Stockton State Hospital.
Throughout Tammone’s childhood, she said her mother was one of the strongest, independent and most creative people she had ever known.
“She was always just so creative,” she said. “I remember her trying to start a felt hat company and she would take my brother and I to various places to get supplies.”
In addition to her attempted felt hat business, Tammone said she tried to launch a state relief map of each state company as well as a falafel company.
“After a visit to Israel, she was determined to start her own falafel company,” Tammone said. All of Glass’s business ventures folded.
Glass retired from her psychiatric work in the 1970s. Tammone said that’s when Glass “blossomed.”
After her husband’s death in the 1980s and after her children grew and moved away, Glass dedicated her life to volunteer work.
Glass became a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) in California. She volunteered to work with children who were in foster care or in unstable living conditions.
“She loved that work. She was trained to work with kids and fight for their best interest,” Tammone said. “She interviewed kids, families… she had a huge binder for every kid she worked with and would present her findings to the court. She helped 22 kids get into good homes.”
In addition to her CASA work, Glass also took up professional clowning.
“I think she started clowning in the mid-’80s. I remember helping her sew one of her costumes,” Tammone said. “She loved it. She loved kids and she would do anything to make a kid smile.”
Even after retiring from clowning, Tammone said she still carried balloons in her pocket every day.
“Any time she would see a child, whether in a park or a grocery store, she’d be ready to make them a balloon animal,” she said.
Glass moved to Mercer Island around 2006. She continued her volunteer work on the Island with the Mercer Island Thrift Store and Mercer Island Youth and Family Services (MIYFS).
She volunteered with the thrift store until the day before her death.
Suzanne Philen, the thrift shop business coordinator, worked with Glass all 12 years of her volunteering.
“I found her to be fiercely independent,” she said. “She had such an outgoing personality and she wanted to learn everything… She will be missed.”
Since 2018, news spread that Glass may have been the last surviving cast member of “The Wizard of Oz” following the death of Jerry Maren, one of the three munchkins. It has been confirmed by Tammone that Glass was not the last surviving cast member, yet she is one of the last.
However, Tammone said people started reaching out to Glass and asking for autographs since the ‘80s.
“She was so surprised when all these letters came in from people asking for her autograph,” she said. “She would say, ‘I was just an extra,’ but I knew it made her feel really good that people wanted to connect with her.”
In February, Covenant Shores held an event celebrating the film and Glass’s connection. Now, to celebrate her life and achievements, Covenant Living at the Shores (formerly Covenant Shores) will host a memorial for Glass at 11 a.m. on Oct. 14.
“Anyone is welcome to come and celebrate her life and connection to the film,” Tammone said. “She would’ve loved it.”