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Mel was born on Oct.10, 1922, in Clayton, N.M., where he attended elementary school, and assisted in the local store. His stories tell of good memories with the Hopi Indians and their rituals. In 1943, at age 18, he and a friend enlisted in the U.S. Army. He served in various assignments during this period, including as the athletic instructor for the Presidio, Calif. base. He received an honorable discharge on May 20, 1946, and was also awarded a WWII Victory Medal, American Campaign Medal and a Good Conduct Medal. Following his military service, he began employment with the U.S. Postal Service and advanced in the organization quickly.
Mel and Norma Jean Wilkins were married on May 15, 1946, in Reno, Nev. They started their family in the Palo Alto, Calif., area. They were married for almost 68 years at the time of his passing. Their life together shared many adventures and experiences, including a family reunion in New Mexico, a trip to Alaska, and celebration of their 50th wedding anniversary at Delintment Lake with family. The stories and memories are many and varied. When you listened to Mel relate his stories, they all included his wife (companion) and the hand of the Lord.
Mel was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and he and Jean were sealed for all time and eternity in the Oakland Temple. One of his favorite assignments in the church was serving with the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts; he was awarded the Silver Beaver Award, and served in scouting virtually his entire adult life.
Mel was very sports-minded, and really enjoyed golfing, particularly with his friends. He also enjoyed fishing, baseball, and football. At one time, he was as an avid “rock hounder,” and did quite a bit of lapidary work. He always had to have a project.
He and Jean lived in a number of places prior to moving to Burns. Some of these places included Menlo Park, Redwood City and Sunnyvale, Calif. They moved with their three children to Southern Oregon in 1963, and purchased the Three Link Ranch, living there for eight years. After the sale of this ranch, they lived in Shady Cove and Medford. Mel and Jean moved to Burns in 1977, where they spent a number of years restoring their more than 100-year-old home.
During his time in Burns, Mel served on the city council and was very active with the police and fire departments. He was instrumental in making the arrangements to combine the city offices. Mel also served as the president of the Harney County Cancer Society for about 17 years with very fond memories and success. He was also a member of the local Elks and Lions clubs. He believed in serving, and had a charitable heart.
He is survived by his wife and eternal companion, Norma Jean Wilkins Johnson; his daughter, Paula Jean Chambers, and her husband, John R. Chambers of Burns; nine grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his father, Floyd Johnson; mother, Mary Graham-Johnson; all of his siblings; two sons, Darrell Ruland and Richard Alan; and two grandchildren.
Services to celebrate his life will be held on Tuesday April 1, at 11 a.m. in the chapel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Hines. The service will be followed by a luncheon and socializing.
If desired, donations may be sent to local charities, such as Home Health, Hospice or the Harney County Senior and Community Services Center.