Mel Sherman

Mel Sherman c 2012 001_small“They don’t make men like Mel Sherman anymore…”

That’s what a local community leader wrote in response to Melvin Samuel Sherman’s 2014 obituary in a local newspaper.

This smart, generous, humorous, and kind man touched so many lives and supported numerous charitable organizations. Mel Sherman’s bequest to JFCS of Southern Arizona arrived November 10, 2014.

Mel and his wife Harriet (of blessed memory since 2001) moved to Tucson from Chicago to escape the cold in 1978 with Harriet’s mother and uncle, Gram and Sam. Mel and Harriet built their new home to facilitate elder care.

They made a wide circle of friends and acquaintances and enjoyed volunteering, hiking, vegetable gardening and Mel had a woodworking shop. He was very active at Handmaker Jewish Services for the Aging, volunteering his time for everything from Board service to creating items in his shop that residents could finish in craft classes.

Mel was a firm believer in mitzvah (charitable acts) and he was, for many years, a volunteer with Tucson-HABBJACH Dollars for Scholars, a member of the Desert Caucus and the Yiddish Club, as well as a supporter of, among others, JFCS, the Jewish Federation, and Smile Train  which provides free cleft repair surgeries to children in need.

“My dad also was always alert for the next piece of fun. He remembered jokes and his timing was great. He was lighthearted and lively with a good story, and he and mom loved to travel and dance,” says his daughter Lynne.

Harriet & Mel Sherman in Venice, Italy

Harriet & Mel Sherman in Venice, Italy

Mel and Harriet toured Israel and Egypt, visited Brazil, flew over Victoria Falls in South Africa and hiked the Great Wall of China. Once, after a romantic gondola ride in Venice, they joyously danced in St. Mark’s Square, where appreciative onlookers joined them.

According to Lynne, Mel was “brought up in daunting circumstances, but he wasn’t a defeatist. He flourished in circumstances that would be devastating to others. He was very resilient, independent and inspiring.”

Mel dropped out of college when his mom died and he helped his dad save the family precision tooling business. “He has always been a great problem solver,” says Lynne.

He successfully built the business and raised his family in Chicago, where he and Harriet also were involved in many activities and organizations, including a play readers group and a “cousins club” that raised money to bring Holocaust Survivors to the U.S. from Europe.

Lynne says she and her brother David benefitted greatly from their parents’ interests and activities, which made for interesting and stimulating meal-time discussions, and more importantly, helped them understand the challenges faced by so many people and how they could help.

Written by Deborah Daun

Harriet & Mel, Desert Museum c1985 001_small Harriet & Mel, Tucson c 1998 001_small