We could be forgiven for thinking that we were publishing some mythical composite of The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the London Times for all the praise lavished on us by our late sports editor, Gerald Mellman, who published articles and pictures in the Intermountain Jewish News over the course of 70 years. The truth is, there was more to our beloved colleague, who died this week, than praise and gratitude. Behind all of his courtesy and kindness was a life lesson: the importance of following your dream.
The IJN was able to do for Mellman what a law education, a law career and a respectable livelihood could not: make a dream come true.
Mellman loved sports. He loved the games. He loved being near the field or the court or the rink, up close. He loved the athletes. He loved the organizations that pushed the games along. Everything sports, he loved. Through the IJN, he was able to live his dream.
Readers felt it. The truth is, there is no other American Jewish newspaper with a sports page, and much of what Mellman captured was already known to the readers, given that we are a weekly. Somehow, it made no difference. Mellman conveyed so much between the lines and the images: a childlike enthusiasm, a dedication to his craft, a love of competition, an open, unapologetic embrace of the home town teams. A chance to cheer. A chance to hope. A chance to celebrate. A chance to let go of all the tensions and struggles in daily life — all that which, we suspect, is behind many people’s embrace of sports. Mellman pushed it to the limit. Readers felt it.
One does not do what Mellman did throughout his eighties and into his nineties without loving it genuinely. Readers felt it.
As the staff remembrances of our photojournalist elsewhere in this issue make clear, it is not only the IJN readers who will miss Mellman’s contributions. It is the IJN staff, we who saw and conversed with Mellman week in and week out for decades. He was always excited to bring in a new batch of photos, and always a man of exemplary character: kind-spoken, respectful, friendly, bestowing compliments on others, building up others, seeing the good in life and even laughing it off when the home team lost. His absence is not just a loss of sports photos, it is the loss of a winning human being.
After Mellman’s beloved wife Gen died in 2013, Mellman picked himself up and carried on. His was a heroic effort. No one who knew him could miss his love of life.
We commiserate with his very accomplished family. Understated, tenacious, commited to his craft and his family, always with a soft smile and a gentle chuckle and kind word, Jerry Mellman is sorely missed. He was a gem. May his memory be a blessing.
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