Havelock lost an institutional figure in the passing of Mel Wetzel on Saturday at the age of 94.
Wetzel was a fixture in many places in this community.
At the recent Salute to Veterans at the Havelock Senior Center, Wetzel was recognized as the oldest veteran at the gathering. He had served in the Army Air Corps at the end of World War II. Afterward, he spent 33 years working aboard Cherry Point at the Naval Air Rework Facility.
Wetzel was a member of the Knights of Columbus at Annunciation Catholic Church, where he also called bingo for fellow senior citizens.
Two years ago, he ventured to Washington, D.C. to join fellow veterans in visiting the World War II Memorial as part of the Honor Flight. Mel was a member of the American Legion. He delivered Meals on Wheels. He drove a county school bus for a decade.
Like his obituary in today’s edition says, "Mel never met a stranger." That is a true statement if there ever was one. Mel was always willing to stop and engage in a conversation.
"Mel loved people," said daughter Marilyn Davis. "He had a greenhouse business and sold pumpkins and Christmas trees."
He had many friends at the Havelock Senior Center, where he was almost always present making full use of activities offered to him. He played cards and competed in Wii bowling. Mel also served on the Senior Center Advisory Board.
Mel used to come by the newspaper office and just talk.
"He enjoyed being around people," Davis said. "That kept him busy. He didn’t want to stay home and stare at the walls."
Even though he was slowed by a replacement knee, Mel still seemed to be young at heart.
We encountered him at the Godette Center on voting day in 2008.He had voted his whole life, beginning with Franklin D. Roosevelt.
"It’s a privilege we have that a lot of other people don’t have and if we don’t vote we’re going to lose," he said. "If everybody in this country voted, we’d have a different country. We’d have a better country. Right now, we don’t even get 50 percent, which is a shame. I think it is a dirty shame that people don’t get out there and vote."
"I want to live to 100," Mel said several times. We all believed he’d do it, too.
Mel Wetzel, citizen, was a participant.
He loved the community in which he lived. He cherished ever breath he had an opportunity to take. Mel Wetzel lived life and lived life to the fullest.
Mel Wetzel’s aging frame might not have lasted to age 100, but his spirit and zest for life will be long remembered in Havelock.
Drew C. Wilson is a reporter for the Havelock News. He can be reached at 444-1999 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.