The Woodward News

January 28, 2014

Melvin Nix


Woodward News

Woodward, Okla. —

Melvin Nix, long-time Woodward businessman, passed from this life on Sunday, January 26, 2014, at Grace Living Center in Woodward, Oklahoma at the age of 99 ½ years. Graveside services will be held Wednesday January 29, 2014 at 4 p.m. in Elmwood Cemetery with Reverend Jeremy Skaggs officiating and Masonic rites given by members of the Woodward and Arnett Masonic Lodges. Arrangements are under the direction of the Billings Funeral Home.

On July 23, 1914, he was born Willard Melvin Nix, but he was always known as Melvin to everyone except the government, which preferred his first name of Willard. His parents, A.J. and Mabel (Price) Nix, farmed a mile north of Turpin, Oklahoma, in the Oklahoma Panhandle County of Beaver. Melvin grew up during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl era. He learned to drive at an early age so he was able to help neighboring farmers and drive a school bus to earn money before graduating from Turpin High School in 1932. He was a star athlete, a delegate to the National 4-H Congress in Chicago, and received an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point; however, he was unable to accept that opportunity and few other opportunities existed for young men in the Panhandle in those hard years.

On August 20, 1935, he decided to enter the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) program. He was assigned to help create Boiling Springs State Park, which brought him to Woodward, which he never wanted to leave.

One of his jobs in the CCC was to drive a supply truck. He made weekly trips to Oklahoma City and other locations and trained as an auto mechanic. He served until March 31, 1938. After his separation he bought a service station in Woodward.

When World War II began he was working for Armour and Company, a Woodward produce firm, driving hundreds of miles a day to pick up fresh food from area farmers and bring it into Woodward. One late night in the fall of 1942 he and co-worker Andy Anderson arrived back at the dock in Woodward, and Andy announced he was joining the Navy. Melvin said, you’re not going to leave me here to do all this work, are you?” The next day they drove to Oklahoma City, and Melvin enlisted in the Army Air Corps, which later became the Air Force. That was October 26, 1942. After completing active duty, Melvin remained in the active U.S. Army Reserve until his retirement July 23, 1974.

Melvin became an aircraft mechanic, serving at Enid and Pampa air bases.

He owned a 1940 Plymouth Club Coupe so he was able to drive back to Woodward any time he got a pass to see his wife Grace Mullenax Nix, whom he had married right after leaving the CCC in 1938.

Following the war and the return to civilian life, Melvin learned to fly on the GI Bill and returned to his prior occupation of driving and working on vehicles in Woodward. The year following the Woodward tornado, 1948, he became Daddy to his only child, Saundra. He endowed her with his love for flying planes and driving vehicles, but sadly, not with the ability to fix them when they break. For some 20 years Melvin ran a well-known Sinclair service station at the intersection of Main and Oklahoma. He also ran a wholesale oil and gas business for many of those years. He served his community for two terms on the Woodward Board of Education and on the City Commission. He served as Exalted Ruler of the Woodward Elks Lodge and held an office in both the Woodward Elks and Woodward Masonic lodges up until suffering his final illness. He was also a member of the American Legion and First Christian Church.

After his wife Grace passed away in 1988, Melvin married Mollie Brannen. He and Mollie and their extended families enjoyed spending summer vacations at a cabin they bought at South Fork, Colorado, on the banks of the Rio Grande. Mollie passed on in February 2005.

Melvin was known for being the gentleman his mother had raised him to be, always rising to greet people entering the room, even when in his later years he could hardly stand, and always shaking hands with people, coming and going. He carried on a sort of telephone ministry calling his many friends to stay in touch and encourage them, using a magnifying reader after he lost his sight, to look up telephone numbers he did not know by memory. He enjoyed riding the bus to lunch each weekday at the Woodward Senior Center and always appreciated the loving care shown him by the staff and participants there. In his last months, Melvin received excellent care from the staff at Providence Place Assisted Living and Grace Living Center in Woodward, and from special friends Nina Nickel and Lois and Lillie Fessler, for which the family expresses its deepest gratitude.

Melvin is survived by his daughter Saundra Lapsley, of Amarillo, Texas; step-grandson Jack Lapsley of Oklahoma City; step-great-grandsons Jared Lapsley of El Paso, Texas and Jonathan Lapsley of Norman and many nieces and nephews. Also, from his marriage to Mollie his survivors include her children Leatha King of Woodward, Wanda and husband Clarence Jones of Laverne, Sue and husband Layton Gleason, and Gerald and wife Lois Morehead, all of Greensburg, Kansas, and their extended families.

Predeceasing Melvin, in addition to his wives Grace and Mollie, were his parents, his brothers Merle and Mervin Nix, his son-in-law Tiner Lapsley, and many other loved ones.

In lieu of flowers, the family prefers remembrances be made to Panhandle Nutrition Center or the charity of your choice.