Havre Daily News - News you can use

By Tristan 



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Melvin Richard Van Wechel, 79, of Stevensville, Mont., departed this life Sunday, June 20, following a courageous battle with lung cancer. Mel was residing at his summer home in Stevensville with his family, and he was surrounded by love.

Melvin was born March 14, 1931, in Rudyard, the elder son of Jacob and Gertrude (Narstad) Van Wechel. He grew up on the family farm in Rudyard, and graduated from Rudyard High School. He played basketball and other sports. Mel was an enthusiastic member of his school band. He also taught himself to play the guitar and the electric organ. As a father and uncle, Mel enjoyed teaching everyone about roller skating, ice skating, water skiing, alpine snow skiing, boating, fishing and camping.

Mel loved to fly and earned his private and commercial pilot licenses as a youth. He worked for many years as an agricultural spray pilot along the Hi-Line, and later as a corporate pilot in the Yukon Flats region of Alaska. Mel flew rescue missions for the Civil Air Patrol and enjoyed the company of pilots.

Mel married Donna (Cederberg) in 1953. Together they farmed north of Havre in the 1950s and south of Chinook in the 1960s. They later owned and operated several businesses in the Havre area, including an insurance agency, an auto body shop and a beauty salon.

Moving to Alaska in 1983, to support Donna's career in public education, Mel flew airplanes, supervised maintenance and construction projects and assisted in the schools. Mel was known in rural Alaska as a skillful, patient and compassionate teacher. He was a gracious host and famous cook for Alaskan village travelers who stayed in his home.

After more than a decade in Alaska, Mel returned to Montana in 1997, to care for his mother. Later, he and Donna travelled extensively in the United States in a motorhome.

They spent many winters with their Superstition Sunrise neighbors and other friends in Apache Junction, Ariz.

Mel enjoyed a varied and exciting career as a pilot, rancher and homemaker, but his greatest contributions were as a son, a husband and a father. He was proud to have been a caregiver at different times in his life: first for his daughter and later for his elderly mother. For more than 56 years, he was a caring companion to his wife.

Survivors, in addition to his wife, are his daughter, Pamela Van Wechel and his son-in-law, Dick Tardiff of Kealakekua, Hawaii; his sister, Kay Norenberg of Great Falls; and his brother Jim Van Wechel of Washington state. Also counted among survivors are many beloved nieces, nephews and inlaws.

At Melvin's request, there will be no funeral service. On Sunday, June 27, all friends and family of Melvin are invited to gather at noon for conversation and refreshments at the Lutheran Church in Turner, Mont.

In lieu of flowers, memorials in Melvin's memory can be sent to: Aviation Safety Foundation, St. Steven's Episcopal Church, Aspen Hospice in Stevensville or the American Cancer Society


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