Melvin D. Wing, 86, of Springfield, died at 9:35 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 16, 2020 at Memorial Medical Center with a best friend on the phone, Nurse Jake bedside, and another best friend just arriving.
Melvin was born on March 9, 1934 in Springfield, the son of Melvin D. Wing, Jr. and Tillie A. Koehler Wing. Melvin was preceded in death by his parents.
Melvin proudly served in the US Air Force four years and as a SFD firefighter 35 years.
The night before he died, with a slow heartbeat, Melvin vocalized to friends his awareness of his lifelong cognitive handicap but expressed the convictions of a determined man at peace. "I did my best."
As a child with no brothers and sisters and a father serving in the Navy during World War II, Melvin attended a Catholic boarding school in Wisconsin ... open bay sleeping. Some of the travel back and forth involved solo trips alone with drop offs and picks up along the way. At Chicago Union Station, he saw RR carloads of wounded veterans with missing arms, legs and heavily bandaged bodies, and never forgot.
Early on, Melvin knew of relatives' Depression-era bare bone wages and so he constantly worked, setting bowling alley pins, mowing Leland Grove yards, caddying Illini Country Club double bags and getting to and from everywhere on his own.
He graduated from St. Patrick's Grade School, and there like elsewhere, some did not understand Melvin, as he did not always fit in.
Later he attended Lanphier High School, did not graduate, but went off to a Bloomington rooming house for trade school.
In 1952, Melvin enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and served four years at Amarillo Air Force Base in Texas.
In 1957, Melvin joined the Springfield Fire Department and served 35 years, seven months, and five days until 1993, the year his mother died. Never married, Melvin remained loyal and protective of his mother with whom he lived the 21 years of her widowhood. He would say he had two full-time jobs, on duty at the firehouse, and again on duty at home as Tillie, with her ill health, became more dependent on him.
Empty and Alone
Empty and alone in 1993 after retiring from the SFD and burying his mother, "Butch" began a slow rise with late life education, exercise and social activity. He attended GED instruction at LLCC with Carol Little, beginning a 20+ year student-teacher relationship. He worked out and swam at fitness centers and helped out with local political campaigns - a long time interest – beginning with Joe McMenamin's 1995 razor-thin aldermanic Ward 10 loss. Melvin introduced Joe to firefighters Bernie Coady, Phil Harris, Jim Walsh and others. He then helped Joe win in 2011, dropping more leaflets than any other volunteer and helping paint over the graffiti on the old Kmart building on South MacArthur – climbing ladders more than once to paint over vulgar graffiti on the building's west walls.
Fiercely loyal to Springfield, he enthusiastically helped drop literature in 2012 for the City Residency Referendum which prevailed overwhelmingly in 100 precincts. He contributed to the $8k budget to finance the campaign.
While often unable to articulate his points of view, Melvin read news relentlessly and maintained subscriptions to the SJ-R, Chicago Tribune, and Wall Street Journal, besides weekly and monthly news and business publications. He would mark up the "good" stories and pass them to friends. He knew and understood the investment rule of 72, valued education, praised City infrastructure projects and always respected private sector investment in buildings and grounds.
Hugely grateful for his fire department pension, Melvin worried about the long-term damage of unbalanced City budgets which gave pay and benefit increases but "borrowed" against future generations by underfunding pension obligations. He often said, "Who's going to pay for this?"
Melvin often talked about how much the world was changing. He valued Illinois' black earth, "the best in the world." He also remembered the "coal" dirty winter air of Springfield 1940s. He was nostalgic for the past and concerned for others adapting to the technological world. He missed the Orpheum Theater and its organ music. He appreciated St. Louis and Chicago and travelled the USA with his mother during her healthy years.
In 2013, Melvin gave his IRA funds to the Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln in memory of his mother, for the benefit of women's shelters. In 2017, Melvin received recognition from Fifth Street Renaissance for his generosity towards the Veterans' Shelter on Spring Street. Melvin's contributions to civic, veteran, charitable and other organizations will continue with funds he had set aside.
Final Active Day
He was a lifelong Republican except in recent years, saying, "What's wrong with Trump?" His final active day in life was watching the early election returns on Nov. 3 with pizza and friends in his home. The next day he suffered a brain bleed stroke.
Melvin thanks his many friends: Joe and Lynn, Jim and Pat, Carol, Geoff and Jody in Taylorville, Ed and Carrie, his neighbors on Bergamot Dr. including SPD officer John V, Phil C, Court D, Cousin Jimmy B, Hardees and patrons on Stevenson Dr., Tom S. and all firefighters, UIS student Jake, former LLCC student David, Rosemary, Chris K, Mike M, Marvin L, Vanessa, Tom F, Nurse Danielle and all health care workers, and many more.
A private Memorial Ceremony will be held. You may attend the ceremony virtually after Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020 by visiting https://client.tribucast.com/tcid/31443956.
Cremation will be provided by Butler Cremation Tribute Center prior to ceremonies.
A private burial ceremony will be held at Calvary Cemetery later.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Sojourn Shelter & Service, 1800 Westchester Blvd, Springfield, IL, 62704.
Please visit butlerfuneralhomes.com to offer your condolences.
Obituary written by Joe and Lynn McMenamin