South San Francisco, CA – January 13th, 2023
from the Garden Chapel Funeral Directors Website
Mel enjoyed good health and humor and attained a goal of ringing in 2023, during the 2nd week of his 100th year here on earth having been born in December 1923. He contributed his longevity to remaining active in body and mind, listening (loudly) to his favorite music – saying it was good for his soul and a near-daily ritual of drinking warm water with honey and apple cider vinegar.
Mel was raised in San Francisco’s outer Mission, attending local schools, including Balboa High School, where he was on the tennis team and was part of local roller skating clubs. The only child of a single mother who grew up during the depression, Mel learned early on the importance and value of hard work and knew he alone was responsible for what he had in this world. It was these experiences that pushed him to give to his family all that he had only dreamed about, often working two jobs in order to fulfill this objective.
Just as the great depression seemed to be lifting its heavy hand, World War II claimed his attention and he fulfilled his call to duty with pride and honor in the European theatre and is a proud decorated Veteran. As he believed it was only luck that allowed him to leave the war, the war never really left him, as is true for far too many of our Veterans. The fortitude he was forced to develop served him well through the years right up until his death. He also sought the best in any situation, seeing learning opportunities in them all.
From his childhood years tinkering in the garage of his home and throughout his life, Mel enjoyed his mechanical abilities and there seemed there was nothing he could not create, or fix to be made better, a skill set honed as a necessity during the depression.
San Francisco Bay was an extension of his backyard where he would enjoy decades of fishing, boating, sailing, and yes – even waterskiing. During the winter months, the snowcapped Sierras called for him to ski, which he enjoyed with his family in the earlier years. In the 1960s when it snowed, neighbors could see Mel snow skiing down Avalon Drive in South San Francisco, where he had moved with his wife in 1955 to raise their six children; he resided there until his passing.
Dirt bike riding, especially hill climbing, was another adventure he shared with his family and he felt extremely lucky to have been able to share this activity with some of his grandkids as well.
With a twinkle in his eye, he would ask his kids “Do you know where you are going to sleep tomorrow night?” leaving them to wonder if it was a trip to a lake, the snow, motorcycle park, or elsewhere, but they all knew they could only take what fit in their pillowcases no matter if the trip was for the weekend or the week, knowing the value of traveling light.
Mel was always ready to get out and enjoy the day, and as the years rolled on his appreciation for people-watching and enjoying rides out to the ocean became a simple pleasure that kept his spirits lifted that he enjoyed regularly.
A storyteller, Mel had a way of weaving the nonsensical with fact, often leaving the listeners in awe, and bewilderment, which he found amusing. It was one quality his Betty Ann loved most. He was known for his humor and shenanigans, as his mother Lela Shaw would laughingly say, her Sunny Boy was ‘filled with the dickens’. He has still pulling jokes up to his passing, on his much-appreciated caretaker Paula from Chajinel Home Care. She was up for the challenge and matched his wit giving the last days of his life a sense of lightness while he eagerly worked to learn some Portuguese from her, always learning was part of who he was.
Left to remember him and to carry out his legacy are his surviving family members, Janet Wolfe Powers and her husband Gene, his sidekick and caretaker Kamala Wolfe Silva and her husband Dave who Mel affectionately called ‘son BY law’, his right-hand man, game day watcher, fixer of all things needing fixing and his ‘grocery boy’, and his son Bill Wolfe and his wife Tanya, and daughter Pamela Wolfe. He is further survived by many grandchildren and great-grandchildren, including his kindred spirit grandson, Adam Hunnicutt. His son Tim Wolfe (1982) and daughter Jeanne Wolfe (2021) preceded him in death. His brother-in-law Budd Rancatore and his wife Minnie also mourn his passing.
Mel had many quotes for living a good life which included ‘Never lend what you would not give freely’, ‘It will feel better when it quits hurting’, ‘Don’t get sucked into the other guy’s game’, ‘It don’t matter now, it’s water under the bridge’ and ‘Always leave a place better than you found it’, among so many others.
The world is definitely better today for his having been here.
Rest easy Sir, the war is over.
Services are being handled by Garden Chapel Funeral Directors on Tuesday, January 17 at 10 am, with interment at Holy Cross Cemetery.
Tuesday, January 17th, 2023 10:00am
Garden Chapel Funeral Directors
885 El Camino Real
SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94080