Melvin 'Mel' Joe Heath
COLUMBIA — Melvin "Mel" Joe Heath Sr. is remembered as a family man.
"My father was a very loving father," said his daughter Debbie Johnson. "His family meant a lot to him."
Mr. Heath's wife, Rosie Heath, recounted that almost every Saturday morning, he cooked pancakes for his great-grandson and granddaughter.
"It was her favorite food," Heath said. "His pancakes."
Mr. Heath died Wednesday, June 1, 2011, at Truman Veterans Hospital. He was 79.
He was born on Sept. 26, 1931, in Columbia to Vernon and Jewel Heath.
He met his future wife, Rosie Heath, in 1955, and they were married on Aug. 5, 1956. The couple had two sons and one daughter.
Mr. Heath was raised in Rocheport and attended high school in New Franklin. He was drafted into the Army and served in the Korean War. After his time in the service, Mr. Heath returned to Columbia and opened a service station on Business Loop 70. In 1984, he changed occupations and became an independent painting contractor.
Mr. Heath is especially remembered for his dedication to athletics, Johnson said. He coached the Mighty Mights, a children's football team, as well as a baseball team in the Diamond Council Little League. Mr. Heath often recalled the delight he found in awarding sportsmanship trophies to unsuspecting children who joined the teams with few skills. Johnson said his coaching earned him a plaque of recognition and a lifetime membership in the Diamond Council.
He was also involved in Camp Fire Girls, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.
Mr. Heath was also recognized for his skills in bowling, Johnson said. He was inducted into the Columbia Bowling Hall of Fame on Feb. 23, 1985.
"I grew up in the bowling alley," Johnson said. "He taught me everything."
Mr. Heath was also known for his love of the Columbia Senior Activity Center. He was on the center's board of directors and spent a lot of time there.
"He dearly loved the senior center," Heath said. "He played bridge there a lot."
When he wasn't coaching his grandchildren, bowling or playing bridge, Mr. Heath could be found gardening, Johnson said.
Mr. Heath is survived by his wife Rosie; a son, Joe Heath and wife, Jennifer; a daughter, Debbie Johnson and husband, Arbie; three sisters, Virginia Cole of Higbee, Bette Slate of Columbia and Nadine Clark of Independence; six brothers, Wayne Heathand Carl Heath, both of Independence, Raymond Heath of Higbee, Bobby Heath and Jimmy Heath, both of Columbia, Phillip Heath of Carthage and ; four grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
A son, Joey Heath, and a brother, Steve Heath, died earlier.
Visitation will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday at the Millard Family Funeral Home, 12 E. Ash St. Services will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at the funeral home. Burial will follow at Fairview Cemetery, 3200 Chapel Hill Road.
Condolences can be posted at millardfamilychapels.com.