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Melchor A. Villanua

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Melchor A. Villanua Obituary
Mel passed away on Dec. 21, 2017, one day short of his 86th birthday in his home in Westlake Village, CA. Mel was born and raised in Los Angeles and was very proud of his Spanish heritage. His parents, Maria and Melchor, immigrated to America from their village of Villanua in the Spanish Pyrenees. Spanish was the language spoken in the Villanua home, and Mel was very proud of his eloquent command of the language. Mel liked to refer to himself as a "Baturro" and even had it emblazoned on his personalized license plate. He liked to believe it meant "noble." However, it actually appears to mean a rather "uncouth or hard-headed person from the Aragon area of the Pyrenees. Mel and his two sisters, Mariana and Antonia, were born and raised on 65th St. in South LA. He attended Freemont HS and played on the varsity football team. There is a treasured photo of Mel scoring a touchdown at the Rose Bowl during a City Championship Game circa 1948. Shortly thereafter, Mel enlisted in the Air Force, which quickly recognized his innate culinary skills (courtesy of his mother and aunt) and sent him to cooking school. He rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant and was transferred to Lubbock, TX, where he ran the Officer's Club for two years until he was shipped to Guam to run the mess hall at Anderson AFB. Upon his discharge from the Air Force, he returned to Los Angeles to help his by-then-widowed mother and his sister. He obtained a job at Mac's Chevron in Inglewood and, within a few years, was offered his own station by Chevron. Mel may have only had a high school education, but he had a virtual master's degree in street smarts, common sense, instincts and decency. Every venture Mel embarked on was successful. Mel's Chevron became a fixture at Crenshaw & 84th, and he was trusted and beloved by his local customers for 35 years. He retired in 1988. His passions included a love of fishing and hunting. His trips included African safaris, fishing in Alaska, and hunting in Scotland and France. He also loved collecting Western art and built an impressive collection through his involvement with the Gene Autry Museum in LA. He was also a founding member of Safari Club International. He was renowned for his skills in the kitchen, and for over 40 years lovingly prepared lavish Easter dinners for his family and friends, including his legendary shrimp scampi, defined by that special Mel touch. Mel was blessed with a long and healthy life until suffering a stroke in 2013 while on a wine trip to Santa Ynez. He is survived by his sister Mariana, his nephews Jon and Jim Esparza and wives Nancy and Patti, great nieces Ashlea and husband Mario Marovic, Stephanie Webster, and Linny Esparza, and great, great nieces Grace and Kate. He was fortunate to build a large circle of good friends in the course of his life, and if you were one, you were very fortunate indeed. I, Saul Saladow, am proud and lucky to call him my "mejor amigo." A funeral service and Mass were held for Mel on Saturday, January 6th at Calvary Cemetery in East Los Angeles where he will rest with his parents, sister Toni, Tio Pedro y Tio Pablo, brother-in-law Joe and Tias Elisa and Antonia. Good night sweet Baturro . . may schools of big fat trout lure thee to thy rest.
Published in the Los Angeles Times from Jan. 13 to Jan. 14, 2018
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