Kenneth “Ken” Melville passed away on August 30, 2020, in the loving care of his family and HFAH Hospice Home. He was 93, and the eldest of six children, born to Basil and Lorraine Melville on October 8, 1926. Ken attended Jackson High School. He hitchhiked across the United States before being drafted into the Army during WWII. He proudly served three years (eight months in Germany) as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division and is credited with 26 jumps.
After his discharge in 1947, Ken worked at Aeroquip for 10 years where he met his wife Norma Ploechl. Ken lived at Oak Point in Napoleon from 1952-1973. He joined the City of Jackson Fire Department in 1957. In addition to fighting fires and working on the rescue, Ken was a charter member of the department’s scuba diving recovery team. He was also instrumental in forming the local IAFF union and was union president for many years. On his days off from the fire department, he also worked for Fox and Boley Well Drilling.
In 1973 Ken was promoted to fire chief and retired in 1980 after 23 years of service. In 1952 Ken joined the American Legion Zouave Drill Team and appeared six times on the Ed Sullivan Show. He also performed with the team in the Hollywood movie “The Court Jester” starring Danny Kaye. He met many other famous celebrities during the making of the movie in California. Ken was also a member of the High Wheelers Bicycle Club appearing in many parades and a Pabst Blue Ribbon billboard and television commercial that aired during Super Bowl VI in 1972.
Ken coached several little league teams and later became an umpire with the Southwest Little League for 30 years. Ken and Norma were married for 68 years and traveled most of the U.S., Nova Scotia, Guadalupe, and the Bahamas. They spent many winters in Palm Springs with their dear friends Jack and Marge Boley. After Ken retired, they moved to Spring Arbor and opened “Papa’s Barn” where they grew and sold raspberries and apples and had their own press to make cider. He joined the Spring Arbor volunteer fire department and three township committees, including the planning commission, where he served for 32 years.
Ken is survived by his wife Norma, along with his children “the 4 Ds,” Deborah Melville (Chuck Wenk), David Melville (Kathy), Daniel Melville, and Diane Cagney (Kevin – deceased); six grandsons, Tony Pruitt, Kurt, and Cody Melville, William Melville, Ryan, and Michael Cagney; two great-grandchildren, Trenton and Elaine Pruitt. Siblings include Yvonne DeFreitis, Russell Melville (Patty), and Beverly Sharp (Richard); sisters-in-law, Judy Melville, Patricia Eckerson, Ruby Ploechl, and Margie Melville, along with many special nieces and nephews. He also had many lifelong friends, especially Pete Shelby and Bob Wright, and his “Wooden Spoon Family”. He was preceded in death by his parents, his beloved grandmother, Lillian; brothers, Richard Melville and Douglas Melville; sister, Shirley Collard Patrick; in-laws, Tony D’Orio, Bob DeFreitas, Don Ivey, Ray Collard, Robert Ploechl, Robert Eckerson, and many aunts and uncles.
Ken enjoyed baseball, golf, woodworking, and mowing his lawn. He loved telling stories about his adventures and spending time with his family. The family wishes to thank the many Hospice nurses who lovingly cared for Ken, providing him with every comfort. Cremation has taken place and a family graveside service will be held at a later date. Memorial contributions can be made to the American Legion Post 29, 3200 Lansing Ave., Jackson.