Tuesday July 19th, 98-year-old Melvin Sanford Blanchard sat down in his chair to take a TV nap and slipped away peacefully. His sweetheart of ten years, Tori, was by his side.
Mel was born on February 17, 1924 and was raised in Glasgow, Montana, on the family dairy farm. The Riverview Dairy Farm was owned by his parents, Sanford Fuller Blanchard and Mabel Blanchard. Hailing from Corinth Maine, S.F.B. was 60 years old when Mel was born and Mabel was 44, hailing from Anoka, Minnesota. They had a baby girl in 1920 named June (Junie Bug) that helped raise Mel as her own. They remained very close friends their entire lives; when June predeceased him, she was 101 years old.
After graduating high school, Mel furthered his education at Boeing in Seattle by taking large engine mechanics. At the beginning of WWII, Mel enlisted into the Air Corp to further his large engine education and serve his country. After the war, Mel moved back Montana and purchased a 1948 Harley. While palling around in Montana, he was introduced to a buddy’s sister, Deana Mae Peterson. They started their life together on the 29th day of October 1949. Deana predeceased Mel after 56 years of marriage and having their greatest pleasures in life; Charles, Bonita (Bonnie), Peggy, and Patsy!
Mel harvested logs in 1950 to build a log cabin for his wife and first-born Charles.
When the three daughters came, Mel added onto their cabin and made it look like a new home by covering the logs.
Deana was a nurse at Shodair and worked nights so Mel could work days. He was Mr. Mom; cooking, bathing, and getting the kids to bed. Later he would work nights at all of the show houses in Helena spelling off the projectionist on their days off. The family were avid travelers and took many trips around the country.
Mel was instrumental in starting the Flying Club in Helena that made model airplanes and enjoyed working with his son, Charlie.
As parts manager for the Chevy dealer, Mel built two buildings; one on Montana Avenue and, eventually, had his own auto repair shop.
As a young man, one of Mel’s neighbors made a wooden bowling alley in his barn. You had to bring your own pinsetter or tipped anyone what would “go in back”! The bowling balls were made of wood. Deana and Mel became bowling fanatics and enjoyed sometimes bowling three to four times a week.
On August 22nd, the staff and owners of Sleeping Giant Lanes are going to have a remembrance party in the newly decorated event center and redone alleys. It was Mel’s wish, instead of a funeral. Mel and Dean’s ashes will be buried together in a private service at Fort Harrison.