Written by Tabitha Hogue | Photographed by Deidre Davidson
South Bay natives Joe and Rita Meistrell have been married for 48 years
and love to go on adventures. From trips to Catalina Island to forays
further afield—everything from grizzly bear watching in Alaska to
admiring glaciers in Antarctica—the Meistrells are happiest when
they’re exploring life together.
“Joe is my best friend as well as my husband,” Rita says. She
states that approaching life with a sense of humor has helped them get
through rough times.
The couple have had full and rewarding careers, with Joe spending just
under 35 years (and going on about 2,000 SCUBA dives) working for the
Sanitation Districts of L.A. County. When he retired in 2005, he was serving
as the supervising environmental scientist in charge of monitoring the
waters off Palos Verdes.
Meanwhile, Rita worked for 33 years for The Aerospace Corporation after
falling in love with computer programming, which appealed to her logical
and puzzle-solving side. Her team developed “real-time” spacecraft
simulations for the U.S. Air Force. Now in retirement, the Meistrells
enjoy spending more time with their son and grandchildren.
As they thought about retirement plans, the couple wanted to have a plan
in place to give them a secure retirement while at the same time benefit
their community. Over the years they had positive experiences with Torrance
Memorial, both personally and secondhand. Rita had major surgery at the
hospital in 1971, and Joe’s mother and sister both had long illnesses
requiring multiple stays there. “We always felt they were given
excellent care,” Joe recalls.
He and Rita own several rental properties in the area, and when a longtime
tenant moved out last year, they decided to explore creating a
charitable remainder trust (CRT) to benefit the hospital.
“Basically it came down to a choice between selling the property
and giving a large amount of the proceeds to the government for capital
gains tax and reinvest the remainder, or donate the property to Torrance
Memorial as a CRT and receive both a tax credit and income from the invested
proceeds until our deaths—after which the hospital gets the remainder,”
Joe says. “The idea of the hospital (which has provided such good
health care to the community) benefiting from our hard work was much more
appealing than letting the funds slip away into some anonymous government
Professional Advisory Council members Eric Harris and Stuart Tsujimoto also had a hand in helping the
gift come to fruition. “Eric, as an attorney, set up the trust for
us,” Joe says, “and Stuart is the financial investment manager
for the funds within the trust.”
The Meistrells came to realize creating a charitable remainder trust was
a win-win for everyone. “It’s a win for us because in addition
to eliminating the tax consequences on the sale of the rental property,
it replaced the income we were receiving from the rent,” Rita notes.
“And it also provides us with a tax credit.”
“The hospital wins because upon our deaths they receive the remainder
of the funds,” Joe shares. “The community wins because it
helps Torrance Memorial remain one of the top hospitals in the country.”