TRAVERSE CITY — Melvin L. Waite died March 11, 2013, at the University of Michigan cardiac unit. He was born on March 21, 1948, to Donald and Helen Waite.
He is survived by his mother; his wife, Susan Willard; three brothers, Jerry, Tom and Dick; his son, Christopher, from his marriage to Marian Fish; son, Jesse; stepchildren, Shaunda, Randy Willard, Colleen, Stephanie and her husband, David; grandchildren, Lilly and Bryan; and nieces and nephews.
He always said, “I love my Susie.” He was a great husband, wonderful manager/owner at Sue’s J&S Hamburg, amazing hunter and fisherman, loved to argue about politics and sit on Denny Wells’ deck pretending to be fishing.
There is no funeral planned. There will be a wake in the spring, as Mel did not want a funeral.
“My Army time with Mel Waite: I first arrived to Bravo Company in November of 1968. I met up with the Company on fire Base Birmingham. I was assigned to Second Platoon. Wayne Carrera was my Squad Leader. Before I even met Wayne I met Mel. He was the Platoon Machine Gunner. I was assigned to his team, and about five minutes later I was the Machine Gunner and Mel was the Gun Team Leader. He taught me everything I needed to know about the M-60 in the jungle, how to protect the Platoon and what to do when the words, “Get the gun up here,” was called out. All the time I was the gunner and I heard those words I ran to the front with Mel right by my side. He was fearless, not a better soldier in the world.
When Lt. Driver lost his life as he ran by me with Clyde Crossguns in tow, Mel was right beside me. A few minutes later Mel put to rest a NVA soldier. He was so smart in the bush; it must have been his hunting and fishing background. He just knew things others didn’t. He was always at my side and every night dug our hole together. In fact, it was one of those nights he saved my life. I was digging and Mel was cutting. We upset a “Bamboo Viper.” The long, light green snake came right at me, reared up to strike me (I froze), and Mel took the top seven inches off the killer. I would have been dead in a minute. Mel acted so fast, one swing of his machete and it was over; he hit a home run. Thank God it was Mel that was next to me, and because of him there are six children and eight grandchildren in my family.
I thought of a funny private joke we had. In Vietnam we had these vines that would hang down from the canopy and they were covered with thorns. They were called “Wait-a-Minute” vines because it took a minute to get the dad-gum thing off you. I started calling them “Melvines,” the play on Mel’s last name, Waite, and Melvin. I would say, “Damn, Melvines.” He would laugh! I love that guy, his knowledge, wisdom and fierce courage was an example to us all.” — Pat O’Leary