Damian Meins, 58, of Riverside is being remembered by his former colleagues as a jovial man who played Santa Claus at his local church.
Meins was an employee at San Bernardino County of Environmental Health Department, but he spent most of his professional career in Riverside County.
"I will always remember Damian as a caring, jovial man with a warm smile and a hearty laugh. A bright light has been extinguished from our world in a most tragic way," said Juan Perez, director of Riverside County Transportation and Land Management Agency, in an email to his staff.
Perez said Meins was also the physical education teacher at St. Catherine of Alexandria school in Riverside and for the past few years had dressed up as Santa for the school.
Meins had only recently started working in San Bernardino County, according to an email Perez sent Thursday to Riverside County employees in the planning department. On Thursday, his former co-workers in Riverside also remembered Meins as a great role model who dedicated his career to public health.
"We lost a good man through senseless violence. He was a loving and caring husband, father and friend. He is irreplaceable," said Environmental Health Department Director Steve Van Stockum, a colleague and very close friend in a statement.
Meins worked for the County of Riverside's Environmental Health Department for 23 years and another three years as assistant director in the Planning Department before retiring in 2010. He started working for Riverside County in June 1984.
He is survived by his wife, Trenna - who is principal at Sacred Heart Parish School in Rancho Cucamonga - and two adult daughters, said Ray Smith, spokesman for Riverside County.
Smith said that despite retiring from Riverside County in 2010, Meins still kept in contact with staff from the county's health department.
"Everyone who knows him is deeply saddened by the tragic events in San Bernardino yesterday. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of the victims and their families," he said.
Riverside County's Environmental Health Department will hold a vigil in front of the Health Administration Building in Riverside on Tuesday at 4:30 p.m.
The California Conference of Directors of Environmental Health has also requested that all environmental health managers and staff throughout the state observe a moment of silence for Meins on Dec. 9 at 11 a.m.
Published in San Bernardino County Sun on Dec. 4, 2015.