Friday, August 3, 2012

Melvin Bush: Memories of Melvin (pt. 2)

Earlier this week we shared one very poignant memory of Melvin Bush. That was only one of many responses we had when we sent out a message asking people to share their Melvin stories. Tonight I'd like to present some more of the responses. It will give you an idea, hopefully, of the range of people Melvin affected and how deeply he affected them.

Through Melvin, we met the wonderful Julie Burk, and her therapy dogs.  Melvin was extremely fond of Zadok, Julie's Akita, who came to campus twice a year (on Melvin's birthday in November and in the spring) to do Melvin's rounds with him. Zadok incidentaly was the 2009 Eukanuba Therapy Dog of the Year, having traveled to Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois to comfort students after shootings on their campuses. 
Rain didn't keep Melvin from doing his job most days. He refused to wear a hat either, saying it would interfere with his ability to see. He always had a smile and rarely complained about anything. 
Of course, we all know that Melvin had a great love for Mariah Carey also. He was none too happy when she married Nick Cannon. He'd shake his fist and say, "she's mine!" 
Melvin was an absolute joy to know. He embodied this campus, and it's difficult to imagine him never buzzing through here again. 
~ Julie Thomspon

One memory was the day I said to Melvin, "Hey Melvin, did you hear Fairview burned down?" He shouted "Good, good, good!" and shook his fist in the air. He was so happy to hear that. I hope the bad memories went away with the fire. 
~ Lynda Pullen

Melvin was always joking around with the folks in our office at PSU when he came by on his daily coffee rounds, but had such a great memory (much better than mine for sure) and noticed the details. He would check our office calendar to see when we were scheduled to be out and to make sure his birthday was calendared. And it always was.
One day, not long ago, he was bringing his daily round of coffee and goodies around and noticed that a copy of the 2010 United Cerebral Palsy annual report (with his picture on the cover) was no longer on our bulletin board. We had moved it to rearrange the board when we put up a new calendar and had not put the report back up. He noticed right away and wanted to make sure it went back up, which it did, immediately! And it’s still there with Melvin’s smiling face greeting us each day as we arrive to work. We will miss you Melvin.
~ Penny Jasso

I consider Melvin Bush one of the best teachers in my life, about life. 
I first met Melvin when he was living at Fairview Hospital and Training Center in 1968 when I was thirteen and he was about nineteen. At that time 3000 people were ‘living’ at Fairview, one of many such institutions in the United States. Melvin spent his days in a room with forty or more other persons and then spent his nights in a dorm of forty beds. A life of no privacy; few possessions; nothing much to do. 
Melvin and his friends in that building were bright, funny, young teens like myself and my first thought as we became friends was “How come they don’t have to go to school like I do?” This was six years before the “Right to Education Act (PL 94-142)” was passed and thus Melvin was denied a public education. Life in an institution prevented Melvin and countless others of his generation any possibility of becoming who they could be or wanted to be in life. At age sixty he continued to express a desire to learn to read.
As I spent time with Melvin and others at Fairview I wanted so much to do some small thing for my new friends. I decided I would find a say to make or buy a Christmas present for each person on the ward. But as I shared my desire to do this with my friend Charlie, Melvin and others they said “….Ann, why don’t you find a way for us to make each other a Christmas gift instead...?” In that moment I learned life lesson # 1: When a person has nothing, what becomes most important in life? The dignity and opportunity to give to those you care about. 
And so the 13-year-old mind went to work and came up with the bad idea of decoupage: magazine pictures cut out and adhered to wood plaques with shellac. Can you picture thirty people with cerebral palsy attempting to adhere paper to a board and not their wheelchairs, their hair, and each other? I was nearly banned from the ward by the staff after that, but we did manage to make gifts for everyone. 
In time I moved on, moved back east but eventually found my way back to Portland and PSU’s Special Education Dept. Thirty seven years later, Melvin rolls into our department with a coffee cart built upon his electric wheelchair. I look at him and know I have met him before. I pull him aside and ask “Did you ever live in Salem?” He nods enthusiastically. “Did you ever live in a place called Fairview?” Now Melvin is really excited; here is someone who knows of his past, knows what he has been through to get to where he is today. 
Melvin was a born entrepreneur and salesman; with a knowing look and winning smile, he could sell coffee all over campus and beyond one customer at a time. He didn’t need to talk, he just needed to connect with his customers. He got up early every morning, rode the max line into the city, and went to work happy and proud to be of use and to serve his customers and widening circle of friends on his route. 
Melvin did not let anything get in his way of living life as fully as possible and doing what he knew he could do well. His positive indomitable spirit will always inspire me, leave no room for personal ‘pity parties’, and make me grateful for the opportunities I have been given in life. 
I miss my teacher, but I keep him close. 
~ Ann Fullerton 

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