WHEN OLIVER NORTH needed funds ostensibly for a Nicaraguan church during the infamous Iran-Contra scandal of the mid-'80s, he enlisted the help of a Philadelphia stockbroker.
The stockbroker, Jonathan J. Hirtle, contacted two Philadelphia-area business executives, Donald E. Meads, former chairman of CertainTeed Corp., and James Macaleer, CEO of Shared Medical Systems of Malvern, to meet with North.
As a result of that meeting in Washington, D.C., in August 1985, one of the executives donated $60,000 for North's activities. It was never clear who gave the money.
But Donald Meads, longtime Philadelphia-area businessman and civic leader, who died Thursday at age 92, reportedly was involved in Iranian affairs even before Iran-Contra. His consulting firm, Carver Associates, was said to have helped the CIA try to recruit a future Iranian president as a paid informer.
The report was published in the Washington Post in 1982. It stated that the CIA, working with the help of Carver Associates, of Plymouth Meeting, tried but failed to recruit Abolhassan Banisadr, before he became president of Iran in 1980.
Neither the CIA nor Donald Meads would comment on the report.
But John R. Bunting, chairman of First Pennsylvania Bank at the time and a friend of Don's, decried the report, and said the CIA had even approached him after he became an official of the bank.
Of Don, Bunting said, "His good looks, good works and apparent dynamism have made him a favorite of society columns, where his attendance and sponsorship of various 'black-tie' affairs is chronicled."
Don would also not talk about his meeting with Oliver North, the former Marine lieutenant colonel and member of the National Security Council in the Reagan administration who helped orchestrate a scheme to funnel profits from the sale of weapons to Iran to the Contras fighting the Sandinistas in Nicaragua.
In recruiting Meads and Macaleer, Hirtle, the stockbroker, insisted any funds raised would go to the Catholic Church in Nicaragua and not to weapons. The theory was that a strong church would be a bulwark against communism.
Don, a devout Republican, was a strong anti-communist. He wrote letters supporting the U.S.-led invasion of Grenada in 1983 to oust a leftist coup that took over the island government and murdered the prime minister. The invasion restored constitutional government.
Don criticized newspapers which condemned the invasion, as "pillars of jelly, who simply resort to hand-wringing and thereby invite incursions similar to the Cuban buildup well under way on Grenada."
Don, formerly of Glenmoore and Elverson, Chester County, was living in retirement in Jupiter, Fla. He was a much decorated Marine pilot in the South Pacific in World War II. He earned five battle stars, the Distinguished Flying Cross, six Air Medals and a presidential unit citation.
Don formerly lived in Minneapolis, where he was associated with a financial services company. He came to Philadelphia in 1971.
Among his many Philadelphia-area business interests, he was executive vice president, chief financial officer and director of INA Corp. in 1971, and chief executive of CertainTeed Corp. in 1973.
He was a member of the boards of Singer Corp., Quaker Oats Co., CIGNA, Perdue Farms, Chicago Milwaukee Corp. and Fidelity Bank.
Among his numerous community activities, Don was chairman of the World Affairs Council, a trustee of the Valley Forge Military Academy, the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation, Thomas Jefferson University and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1942 and later received a master's in business administration from Harvard.
He is survived by his wife of 70 years, Jane Lightner Meads; four sons, Edward G., Robert C., Laurence G. and Clifford L. Meads; three daughters, Judith M. Antrim, Suzanne M. O'Neil and Nancy M. Chapin; a sister, Nettie M. Hoyt; and more than 30 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.