On Monday morning, 16 March, Mel Rosche went to be with Jesus. Now resting in the Everlasting Arms of God, Mel’s earthly suffering has ceased but his valiant life of faith will yield precious Kingdom fruit for years to come.
Mel will be missed! He led an extraordinary life: patriotism as a pilot and P.O.W. during WWII, brilliance as a scientist working for NASA to put the first man on the moon, and faith as a Young Life leader here in Williamsburg for many years. He was a devoted husband to Ruth, his beloved bubbly wife, and his family, Jan and Phil, and their children.
Mel impacted many, many people for Christ. A friend from high school, Clark Morledge, wrote a moving tribute to Mel’s life, faith and tenacity. (You can read it by clicking here) Mel also led my brother-in-law, Woody, to faith 35 years ago. And, at 94, Mel had just completed Stephens Ministry training so he could be Christ’s hands and feet to the hurting at the Williamsburg Landing where he lived in a full-care facility.
Mel’s faith never stopped searching for ways to serve, even as health challenges limited his mobility. Many have much to share about Mel’s faith, but he also opened his heart and life to our family. When we moved to Williamsburg in 1979 Mel and Papa hit it off right off the bat – he became and remained one of my Papa’s closest friends for 35 years.
When Papa started staggering around with the onset of what doctors initially diagnosed as M.S., Mel went out and bought Papa a fancy walking cane. When Papa couldn’t drive anymore and needed an Amigo then later a wheelchair to get around, Mel organized outings, what he called “honky tonking,” to show my dad he could still do fun things. They would go out to eat, then see a movie and do something fun.
As Papa became bedfast 15+ years ago, those honky tonk outings moved to our home, where Mel and the guys fellowshipped with Papa & ate Chinese food (after pizza was outlawed due to Dad’s diabetic status.) While Mel & Papa’s small group honky tonked, Mama met with Ruth and a group of precious ladies. Precious treasured times as Ruth went to be with Jesus many years ago.
Mel meant so much to my dad. Mel called him, “Gully.” He’d walk in, or more recently roll in his wheelchair right up to Dad’s bed, “Hey Gully!” Faith grounded their friendship, but fun brightened it. Mel had such a zest for life. He lived it fully. We had Mel here almost every Christmas these later years, but we always had to get our invitation in early, as everyone else wanted him, too!
Mel didn’t let much stop him, certainly not his age. Woody picked him up every Saturday for shared times out at their farm where Mel would supervise various projects (for many years he actually did them with Woody.) Methinks Mel squeezed lots of fun into Woody’s life on these weekly outings, as he did for our Papa through honky tonking. Mel was a spiritual rock to Woody and to our Dad, but he knew how to be light, the lifting Light of Christ to us.
I also thank God for the gift of Mel’s legacy in my life. As a 10th grader when we moved to Williamsburg, this red head did not know a soul! But as Mel and Ruth opened their hearts and home to the young people of Williamsburg, they made room for me, too.
They turned their beautiful home in Queens Lake into a haven. With nets bouncing to hard-core volleyball in their yard and game rooms set up inside, young people constantly came in and out, feeling welcomed to be at home with them. Many a life was transformed by the love of Jesus Mel & Ruth shared: their open home, open minds, open hearts opened the eyes and lives of many to God’s unconditional love.
Every Tuesday morning at 6:30AM they hosted Campaigners, a Young Life Bible study. Ruth treated us to a spread of donuts & bagels, then Mel got us into the Word of God, making it relevant to living our faith in Christ in a public high school.
How many tears, how many a crisis of turbulent high school times did Mel and Ruth help us weather. Too many, but they never counted – they just opened their arms.
…and shared Wisdom. Mel gave out good advice & strategically interceded on my behalf for important opportunities, like going to “The University.” In 10th grade when I told Papa I wanted to go to UVA, he said, “No way!” (Several of his buddies in Va. Beach never recovered from the uh, liquid traditions.) When the opportunity finally arose, Mel went to bat on my behalf, and Papa let me go!
Before I left for UVA, Mel, beyond brilliant (he helped put the man on the moon brilliant), told me, “B’s are better, because B’s mean balance.” That advice meant a great deal when this straight-A student couldn’t swing A’s during a rough patch at university. (Mel also talked my dad into letting me go out for the boys soccer team in high school – there was NO GIRLS SOCCER TEAM at that time, but that’s for another post : )
Looking up on the shelves above my laptop, here’s a special gift from Mel and Ruth when I graduated high school. It’s still shining (many years later) a precious keepsake from a precious couple who invested their love in me & reflected the light of Jesus Christ to me. Mel and Ruth taught me the inclusivity of Christ’s love that wasn’t about rules and exclusive denominations, but about following Jesus Christ.
All were, and are, welcome. Open doors, open minds, open hearts — that’s how I remember Mel and Ruth, as openings of God’s love.
They also always knew how to have fun and to be fun, crazy fun. In high school, you would not believe how crazy the Young Life meetings could get (!! very !!) Mel kept up that fun spirit even at 94. Three weeks ago Shere & Woody & Mel celebrated his 94th birthday here with Mama. Later that night she kept buzzing with how much fun it was to be with Mel. And two of Mel’s “Angels,” Carol-Jo & Bridgett, crashed the party (they searched all the pizza joints & couldn’t find Mel, so turned up here in time for dessert.) They had to get in on the fun!
Now Mel has joined his beloved Ruth and Papa. Methinks there will be some serious honkey-tonking going on in Heaven.
grace, peace & open hearts