Howard B. Rodgers-Melnick, 70, died Friday, December 16, 2016, in Family Hospice, after a short struggle with lung cancer but a nearly lifelong battle with Tourette Syndrome and related neurological disorders.
He had always said he wanted his epitaph to be, like the old Timex commercials, "He took a licking, but kept on ticking."
Born in Laconia, N.H., April 16, 1946, he was a son of Louis Melnick and Sally Kopelowitz Melnick.
An honors student, despite learning disabilities that would not be diagnosed for decades, he was part of a state champion high school debate team. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa in history from Bates College, where he was a Dana Scholar. He started a doctoral program at Brandeis University in comparative history of the Middle East, but was unable to complete it due to his yet-undiagnosed disorders.
He had a strong Jewish cultural identity, was very proud of his heritage and concerned about the welfare of the state of Israel.
He taught high school in Belmont, N.H., then began a career in hotel management, which he eventually taught at Johnson and Wales College. During this period, he was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome, which had first manifested when he was six and which causes multiple physical and vocal tics. He became a volunteer advocate for those with Tourette Syndrome and also for disability rights in general, working on behalf of the Orphan Drug Bill and Americans with Disabilities Act.
Because music and rhythmic movement relieved his Tourette symptoms, he took up aerobics and became a popular instructor at a Laconia health club.
Married in 1984, he moved to Fort Myers, Fla., where he was a teachers' aide at a public high school for pregnant students and new mothers. He brought his infant son to the school nursery because the principal wanted him to show the students that men could care for babies. He was a superb cook. He moved to Washington County in 1988, living first in Buffalo Township, then in Peters.
His favorite activity was community theater, and he performed with Center Stage Players, Washington Community Theater, Old Schoolhouse Players and Little Lake Theater. His lead roles included Charlie Anderson in "Shenandoah" with Washington Community Theater and the title role in "I'm Not Rappaport" at Little Lake Theater. His most recent role was Stephen Hopkins in an Old Schoolhouse production of "1776" in the summer of 2015.
Following a divorce, he moved to South Fayette. Despite escalating health issues, in 2014, he was able to attend the national conference of Tourette Association of America in Washington D.C., with his son, Sam. A smoker since his teens, he quit four months ago but was diagnosed with lung cancer less than a week before his death.
The nursing staff on unit 5E of St. Clair Hospital, especially Laura, exhibited amazing depth of compassion, understanding and skill in his care.
He is survived by his sons, Eli Rodgers-Melnick (Sarah Kotcon) of Johnston, Iowa, and Samuel Rodgers-Melnick (Kim) of Cleveland Heights, Ohio; a stepsister, Deena Clevenson of Gardner, Mass.; a stepbrother Larry Clevenson of Santa Ynez, Calif.; two nieces, Eleza Lustgarten (Eric) of Brookline, Mass., and Richelle Caplan (Kimmy) of Jerusalem, Israel; and his former wife and continuing friend, Ann Rodgers Redd.
He was preceded in death by his sister, Marilyn Budd.
Graveside services and interment will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday, December 21, in Beth Israel Cemetery, Washington. Memorial contributions may be sent to Tourette Association of America at www.tourette.org
or mailed to 42-40 Bell Boulevard, Suite 205, Bayside, NY 11361. Arrangements entrusted to Ralph Schugar Chapel Inc., family owned and operated, www.schugar.com
Published by Observer-Reporter from Dec. 18 to Dec. 20, 2016.