Friends and fam­ily say good-bye to 'Old Fred'

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - Viewpoints - BY JAMIE RIEGER— jrieger@prairiepost.com

Friend, coach, col­league, men­tor, cof­fee buddy. No mat­ter how one knew Bow Is­land's Fred Mellen, they were guar­an­teed of be­ing left with a last­ing im­pres­sion, a learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, and most likely, a few hearty laughs.

Robin Dann, a re­tired lawyer from Leth­bridge, grew up in Bow Is­land and has many fond mem­o­ries of Old Fred, who passed away on Oct. 26.

"We have known each other for over 60 years so it seems like he has al­ways been there. He was my coach, men­tor and friend - in that chrono­log­i­cal or­der," said Dann, in re­call­ing his decades-long re­la­tion­ship with Mellen. "I'm try­ing to fo­cus on cel­e­brat­ing his life. He had a long, won­der­ful, and full life. He was deeply com­mit­ted to his fam­ily," he added.

Dann first met Mellen when he was just seven years old, play­ing Lit­tle League base­ball with Mellen as his coach. Dann re­mem­bers his coach as be­ing in­struc­tive, but a lot of fun and Dann has car­ried some of the lessons he learned in those early years.

"We had a lot of fun, but he al­ways had two rules. One was if you didn't come to prac­tice, you don't get to play in the game and he didn't care how good of a player you were. The sec­ond rule was you had to hus­tle and look alive. When you were play­ing, you had bet­ter be ac­tive and com­mit­ted," he said. "Be­ing a young kid, I thought the rules were im­por­tant to be­ing a good player; but once I en­tered adult­hood and en­tered the work­force, I re­al­ized he was teach­ing us life lessons on how to be a team player. So, those rules ap­ply to the work­place as well. If you're go­ing to do a job, be en­thu­si­as­tic about it."

True to na­ture, Mellen would spear­head travel ar­range­ments and fundrais­ing for his team.

Mellen him­self, played base­ball for the Bow Is­land Com­bines in the South­ern Ir­ri­ga­tion League in the 1950s.

"We went all over the place for games. It was the late 1950s and early 1960s. The cars didn't have air con­di­tion­ing or cruise con­trol and some of the roads weren't paved, but we went to Saskatchewan, all over south­ern Al­berta, and once, around 1960, we went to Malm­strom Air Force Base at Great Falls," said Dann, adding that they sold pull tick­ets to raise money for the trip.

"Of course, Fred was the one phon­ing around, ar­rang­ing all of these things and he would get a lot of peo­ple to help him. If he got in­volved, you got full com­mit­ment," he said.

Dann left Bow Is­land af­ter high school in 1966 and lost touch with his old coach and men­tor for many years, but re­con­nected with him a num­ber of years ago.

"I re-es­tab­lished con­tact when I re­tired about nine years ago. I had the time then and would go have lunch with him. I re­ally en­joyed his com­pany. Who didn't?" he said. "He was very en­joy­able and I al­ways felt like I owed him so much for all that I learned from him."

Mellen was born in Red­cliff in 1932, spent much of his child­hood in Til­ley, where his par­ents op­er­ated a gro­cery store. In 1946, fol­low­ing World War II, the Mellen fam­ily moved to Bow Is­land where they also op­er­ated a gro­cery store. It was here that he pur­sued his love of sports.

In 1950, he started work­ing for the PFRA (Prairie Farm Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion), do­ing sur­vey work as a rodman. This job saw him move around, from Gran­tham to Vaux­hall.

In 1954, Mellen was hired by Al­berta Agri­cul­ture (Ir­ri­ga­tion divi­sion) as an in­stru­ment man and drafts­man. This po­si­tion al­lowed him to move back to Bow Is­land. In 1975, pro­moted to Tech­nol­o­gist 4 po­si­tion, the only per­son at that level at Al­berta Agri­cul­ture.

Mellen re­tired from there in 1988, but he had lots of work left to do.

"He had a very suc­cess­ful, pro­duc­tive ca­reer and was in­volved in the trans­for­ma­tion from dry­land farm­ing to ir­ri­ga­tion in the re­gion," said Dann.

He mar­ried the love of his life, Dolly, dur­ing this pe­riod, in 1956 and the cou­ple spent many years rais­ing their fam­ily and en­joy­ing time to­gether. The cou­ple loved to dance, es­pe­cially to swing mu­sic.

In the early 1980s, he com­pleted the Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment pro­gram at the Univer­sity of Water­loo and he em­barked on a com­pletely dif­fer­ent ca­reer path.

From 1988-2001, he worked part-time as eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cer for the Town of Bow Is­land, en­cour­ag­ing busi­nesses to set up shop in Bow Is­land, in­clud­ing Al­berta Bean Grow­ers and Spitz.

Bow Is­land's mayor Gor­don Reynolds is­sued a writ­ten state­ment about Mellen's ex­ten­sive in­volve­ment in the com­mu­nity.

"No one was ever a big­ger pro­moter and booster of Bow Is­land, than Fred. He loved this com­mu­nity and worked hard to see it not only sur­vive, but grow, and be suc­cess­ful. For many years Fred was the Town’s part-time Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Of­fi­cer. Part-time? That wasn’t the way Fred op­er­ated and I know that he put in far more hours than many peo­ple in full­time po­si­tions. He was tire­less in his ef­forts to raise the Town’s pro­file, boost lo­cal busi­nesses and at­tract new ones," reads the state­ment. "Fred was a for­mer Mayor and Coun­cilor here in Bow Is­land as well as a vol­un­teer fire­fighter. He and his late wife Dolly gave over 20 years of ser­vice to our Mi­nor Sports pro­gram and he was a very ac­tive mem­ber of the Cham­ber of Com­merce and other com­mit­tees."

Mellen was rec­og­nized sev­eral times over the years for his ded­i­ca­tion and com­mit­ment to the com­mu­nity. In 1980, he and Dolly were rec­og­nized for 20 years of ser­vice to Bow Is­land Mi­nor Base­ball and Hockey As­so­ci­a­tion. In 1988, he was named Cit­i­zen of the Year by the Medicine Hat Col­lege and in 1992, was awarded a Canada 125 medal.

He would go on to con­trib­ute to his­tor­i­cal en­deav­ours in and around Bow Is­land. He worked on the com­mit­tee that pre­pared the town's up­dated his­tory book, "A His­tory of Bow Is­land and Area: Sage Brush to Piv­ots".

Mellen spent count­less hours re­search­ing old com­mu­nity news­pa­pers for in­for­ma­tion for a col­umn about his­tor­i­cal events in Bow Is­land and sur­round­ing area. His weekly col­umn picked high­lights and tid­bits of news­wor­thy items from yes­ter­year and by the time Bow Is­land's Cen­ten­nial rolled around in 2012, Mellen had enough col­umns ac­cu­mu­lated to have the col­lec­tion bound into book form and sold at the Cen­ten­nial events. "Down Mem­ory Lane" be­came a favourite among read­ers of the Forty Mile County Com­men­ta­tor where it was pub­lished and his col­umns ran right up to his pass­ing.

"In later years, he be­came a his­to­rian. He un­der­stood that if you had knowl­edge of the past, it could guide you to the fu­ture," said Dann. "He wore many hats, but no mat­ter which hat he was wear­ing, he was al­ways Fred. He was con­sis­tent. It was al­ways Fred you were get­ting. He was in Bow Is­land for more than 70 years and he in­spired many peo­ple; kids like me and the cit­i­zens be­cause he served them in so many ways for so many years,"

"En­ter­tain­ing and in­for­ma­tive, two words that could also de­scribe Fred," the state­ment from Reynolds fur­ther reads. Fred Mellen be­lieved in pub­lic ser­vice and be­lieved in our com­mu­nity pas­sion­ately. He in­spired, en­cour­aged and even ca­joled many to do the same; my­self in­cluded. Old Fred, Mr. Bow Is­land, def­i­nitely left the Town of Bow Is­land a bet­ter place than when he found it and he will be missed."

The fu­neral ser­vice for Fred Mellen was held at St. An­drew's United Church in Bow Is­land on Nov. 2.

File photo by Jamie Rieger

FI­NAL PROJECT: In his fi­nal project, Bow Is­land's Fred Mellen as­sisted Univer­sity of Wash­ing­ton pro­fes­sor, Pa­tri­cia Fail­ing with her re­search on artist Clyf­ford Still, who lived in Bow Is­land dur­ing his child­hood. Pic­tured from left are: Mellen, Fail­ing, Bob Sit­ton, and Mellen's long-time friend and for­mer Bow Is­land res­i­dent, Robin Dann. Mellen passed away on Oct. 26.

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