Thursday, July 19, 2012

In Memoriam: Melvin Bush, Entrepreneur, Coffee-on-the-go

Some of you may recognize this man:

Those are the smiling features of Melvin Bush, a traveling barista who sold coffee and goodies from his wheelchair in offices around campus. Sadly, Melvin passed away this week, leaving the Kiwanis office a little dimmer around noon, each day, when he used to come through to say "hi" to us. 

t was a sad day for everyone who knew Melvin, because you could not know Melvin without loving him. Even if all you ever did was buy a cup of coffee or a lemon danish from him, Melvin was impossible to forget.

Born in 1948, Melvin spent most of the first thirty years of his life at the Fairview Training Center (which an upcoming blog post will feature) in Salem, OR. At the time, it was known as "The Center for the Feeble-Minded" and was later closed along with most facilities of that sort when the inhumane living conditions were revealed. Melvin never liked it there. After several escape attempts, he finally convinced government officials to release him and he moved into his own apartment. This was a grand success for Melvin.

But he wasn't finished yet.

Determined to show that he could do anything despite his condition of cerebral palsy, Melvin set out to find a regular job and, when he couldn't find employment opportunities, created a job for himself. With the help of David Kern, a job developer, Melvin Bush ended up as the first Seattle's Best mobile coffee barista.

Most of the time, Melvin could be found around PSU campus, traveling from building to building offering coffee and conversation. Like I said, he used to make a special stop by the Kiwanis office. We'll miss him greatly.

A great cover of Melvin's life story and rise to success can be found in a 2003 feature in The Oregonian, written shortly after he started working at Seattle's Best. There is also a photoboard dedicated to his memory up at Seattle's Best.

If you have any memories of Melvin that you'd like to share, even just a time you bought coffee from him, please feel free to include them in the comments section. We'd love to hear them.

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