|People of today in Needham may need no introduction to Dick Melick's life but those coming in the years ahead will. We who are founders of this foundation welcome the opportunity to bridge a possible void between the years ahead and 1997.|
For Dick's family, Washington, D.C., was the South - reflecting in part the tradition of courtesy and involvement in community affairs. Civility was more than a word. It was a practice.
But Washington, D.C., was something else: The heart of the people's federal government. For a boy born there in 1927, the spirit of citizen participation lay around him, unrecognized. But it was going to shape a developing life.
It was in that Washington, D.C., environment that Dick, as a fourth grader, was introduced to his first challenge. He was drafted as a volunteer to be a flag bearer for the school's girls' drill team. While the sound of his small feet were muffled by the hundreds of others, he was marching on the avenues where the echo of history could still be heard and where more would be made. Constitution Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue: the Nation's capital.
There's always something contagious about being involved particularly if others recognize certain traits in you. Two years later he was elected captain of the school's safety patrol. Three years later he was elected to be president of the student council. (By this time his family had moved to Newton, Massachusetts, and he was in junior high school). During his high school years, he became President of the High School Legislature. While primarily a student, and athlete, he also served as Vice-President of the Varsity club and President of a select club known by the number of athletes that belonged: the Hi-Y.
High school was experienced during the years of World War II. Unusual tensions were felt by all citizens. There were restrictions on what people could do. With others, recognizing a community-wide need, Dick was instrumental in creating and developing a student canteen.
Perhaps not unexpectedly, with the aftermath of the war to be won, Dick joined the service and became part of the Naval Medical Corps.
Two years later, he returned to civilian life, and entered college. Haverford College, the University of N.H.; and graduate studies in Law at Boston University.
During those college years, his family had summered in Wells, Maine. It was there that Dick had another introduction to democracy working at the local level: Town Meeting, where every citizen had the opportunity to participate in Town Government. So impressed was he with the idea and form of government, he registered to vote. In spite of being in college when Town Meeting was scheduled, he would hitchhike from Philadelphia to Wells, Maine, to attend Town Meeting.
Earning a living: Dick's legal career was a classic study in advancement. Legal assistant to the Massachusetts Attorney General: first year after passing the bar. A year later he was the tenth of ten lawyers in a defense trial firm that subsequently expanded to full service. Twenty-seven years later, 72 lawyers in all, Dick was the second senior attorney and chairman of the Executive Committee.
Significantly, one of those who was once a junior attorney, commented, "No matter how busy he was, Dick always had time to see you."
As you might have expected, his professional career expanded. Outside of his practice: Lecturer, professor at prestigious colleges Mediator for Trial Courts in the First Division; Arbitrator in the American Arbitration Association, and member of the Board of Bar Overseers. His resume assumed impressive proportions.
In 1959, Dick adopted Needham as his home town. Community service - balanced professional service. Extracting from an extending list: Taxpayers' Association, manager for five years Little League Baseball, Trustee Needham Y.M.C.A. Charter member, Past Exalted Leader B.P.O.E, Member Board of Appeals. Appointments and honorary awards expand the record.
In 1962 he was elected Moderator of the Needham Town Meeting, the Legislative branch of Town government. In 1997, after a remarkable 35 years, he notified the Town that he was going to retire.
When he made the announcement at a special Town Meeting, it was greeted with stunned silence. And then the Town Meeting body rose as one to express its appreciation and admiration. The applause lasted for over ten minutes. A distinguished career unique for the outstanding quality of service, and as far as anyone knows for its longevity.
He is just a man, just one person, neither perfect nor pretending to be. Never too busy to help a friend without being asked, or to volunteer to work on a community project. He was there, many times unexpectedly, when someone needed help.
His words, when responding to the testimony afforded him, simple but eloquent: "I simply wanted to contribute. I've enjoyed it. I feel that I have received more than I gave. Thank You!"
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