Melanson, John Emile
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90, of Scottsdale Arizona passed away on July 17, 2013. Born in 1922 in St. Boniface, Manitoba, he was the eldest son of Albert Louis Joseph and Mary Agnes of Nova Scotia. At the age of 2, his family emigrated from Canada to the New York City neighborhood of Astoria, Queens where he lived until he enlisted in the Army in 1942. As a teenager, he earned money playing piano at many Italian weddings and even played accompaniment for a young singer from his neighborhood, Anthony Benedetto (later known as Tony Bennett). A passionate piano player for life, he continued playing and taking lessons until 88 years of age. As a teen, he also worked for former US President, Herbert Hoover collecting and personally hand delivering newspaper articles to Mr. Hoover. In the Army, he served in Panama before being sent to England, France, Germany and Belgium as part of the 69th Infantry Division, Battery C, 879th Field Artillery Battalion. He fought in World War II's Battle of the Bulge and was awarded numerous military honors including a Bronze Star for meritorious service in a combat zone. After he was honorably discharged, he obtained a BS and MS in Civil Engineering from Columbia University under the GI Bill. His bachelor's degree was signed by Columbia University's president and future US President, Dwight D. Eisenhower. As a Civil Engineer, he traveled the US and the world with projects in New York and Columbus, Ohio to Sydney, Australia; from Chicago to Melbourne, Australia; from Los Angeles to Washington DC, and Athens, Greece to Saudi Arabia. His career finally brought him to Arizona in 1986 where he worked on the Loop 101 as well as over a 100 other ADOT projects. After a career of 61 years, he retired at the age of 88. An avid tennis player into his late 70's, while a member of the White City Tennis Club in Sydney, he had the honor of beating Arthur Ashe, not at tennis, but at darts. His other varied interests included active participation in Toastmasters International and membership in a barbershop quartet. He met his Australian wife, Margaret, in Sydney to whom he has been happily married for 46 years and with whom he has three daughters; Jodie (Atul), Lisa (Robert) and Amy (Mark) and four beautiful granddaughters; Devin, Abigail, Tia and Alaina. In lieu of flowers, a "Tribute Gift" in honor of John's service may be made to the National World War II Museum in New Orleans at www.nationalww2museum.org. A memorial reception for family and friends will be held at his home on Sunday July 21st at 4pm.
Published in The Arizona Republic from July 19 to July 20, 2013