I’ve often said that you haven’t really been to a place until you’ve been there with Mel.
Dad always enjoyed going to new places – not just to see new sights, but also to meet new people. He fully enjoyed life everywhere he was, and he shared that joy with everybody that he encountered. It didn’t matter where or when, there were always people that he hadn’t met yet – and they would become new friends. And more often than not, there were people there that he already knew – creating a joyful reunion of old friends.
For example, in 1996 I was working on a job site near Baltimore, MD. As I often did, I flew Dad out for a weekend visit. We had tickets for an afternoon Orioles game at Camden Yards, where we not only had a great time watching the game, but we got to stuff ourselves on Boog Powell’s BBQ in the outfield concourse. To fill time before the game, Dad had said that he would like to visit the grave of Edgar Allan Poe.
So we added a trip to the grave to our itinerary. Since I had no idea where the grave was actually located, we left fairly early in the morning to allow ourselves time to locate the site.
We had no trouble locating the site. We found it immediately on the first try. It was fascinating, and we spent almost an hour there. This still left us with several hours to kill.
Dad decided that since we had time to kill we should try to locate the old Memorial Stadium. Dad had fond memories of watching Johnny Unitas on TV, as well as all of those old Oriole greats. So off we went to find Memorial Stadium.
And find it we did. The stadium is tucked away in a residential neighborhood. We walked the entire perimeter of the facility from across the street to get a good look at the outside of the famous horseshoe shaped building. And it was amazing. But since nobody was using the facility at the time, it was a bit boring. As we stood outside the fence at the open end of the horseshoe, a security guard walked past.
Dad struck up a conversation with him, and in no time we were enjoying a private tour of the place, from the locker rooms to the press box and all stops in between! That’s just part of the fun when you traveled someplace with Mel.
On Wednesday, I posted the eulogy that I presented at Dad’s memorial service. Part of that eulogy included a tribute to the power of the Dum Dum sucker. Coach Hall always used Dum Dums to recognize and reward the accomplishments of the athletes on his track and field teams.
Lo and behold, on Thursday morning I found this e-mail from Dean Spangler, the Chairman and CEO of the Spangler Candy Company, the makers of Dum Dums!
Jim: It is apparent that your father, Mel, was a remarkable man. Our sincere condolenses to you and your family. Your blog popped up because of the reference to Dum Dums. As I read your "Eulogy for My Father" I was quite moved. I have great fondness for good teachers and people that find the good in life. Your father had both those traits. While we hear many wonderful stories about Dum Dums, I just wanted you to know that this one probably resonated more than any other. I too was blessed to have a wonderful father. He has been gone 34 years now and still thoughts of him brighten my days and inspire me to be better. I will try to be a little better person today for him, and for Mel. Dean L. Spangler Chairman & CEO Spangler Candy Company "The Dum Dums Company"
Even from beyond the pale, Dad is still reaching out to others. I’m so proud that Mel is still being Mel!