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Staying the Course for Chris

mellothumbOnce again, Doug Mello will preside at the Christopher D. Mello Memorial Golf Outing at Apawamis Club October 3. It’s a role he acknowledges hasn’t gotten any easier over time. But as a loyal and longtime supporter of the Rye YMCA and keeper of the flame that still burns brightly for his son Chris, who was on Flight 11 on September 11, 2001, he’s managed to stay the course.


By Robin Jovanovich

 

Once again, Doug Mello will preside at the Christopher D. Mello Memorial Golf Outing at Apawamis Club October 3. It’s a role he acknowledges hasn’t gotten any easier over time. But as a loyal and longtime supporter of the Rye YMCA and keeper of the flame that still burns brightly for his son Chris, who was on Flight 11 on September 11, 2001, he’s managed to stay the course.

 

melloinEarlier this year, and after “a great deal of internalization”, Doug told Gregg Howells and Sally Wright of the Y that this would be his final year running the tournament. “Maybe because it was the tenth anniversary of 9/11, and it was too much of an oddity that we’d killed Bin Laden this year. I’m not sure, but I know that I want to spend more time with my grandchildren, Jayden and Jack, and my son J.D. and his wife who live close by.”

 

The Rye Y will always have a piece of his heart. Doug and his wife Ellen helped raise money for the fitness center named in honor of Chris, who was 25 when he died. Ellen led the Y’s expansion, which Doug refers to as the Y’s “rebuilding” project.

 

A rebuilding of his faith has been Doug’s challenge.

 

“I couldn’t rest after September 11,” he said. “I was there in 1993, running a New York City division for Verizon, and I was inextricably involved with the C.I.A., the F.B.I., and others. I provided bedding, supplies at 140 West Street, which is right next door to the Trade Center. We caught bad guys quickly then.

 

“Everything was working in 1993, but not in 2001. We let guys go through two airports with box cutters in their pockets.”

 

Doug had retired as one of the presidents of sales for Verizon two years before 9/11. He needed to find a way up and out of his grief.

 

He helped create a legacy for Chris in the form of the David E. Retik and Christopher D. Mello Foundation. Its core objective is “to support organizations that will positively impact the spiritual, physical, and intellectual growth of compassionate, courageous leaders of tomorrow”, and whose purpose is “to perpetuate the passion and dedication David and Chris had for humanity.” Among the grant recipients are Horizons for Homeless Children and Boys and Girls Clubs of Indian River County, both in Florida, and, closer to home, the Port Chester Carver Center.

 

Doug’s not worried about the future of the Y Golf Outing. “We’ve got the formula down pat — I learned a thing or two running dozens of pro tourneys for NYNEX over the years. You hire crack caddies, offer great food, and the golf play is never any longer than four hours, 25 minutes. But you always have to have a twist.”

 

The last few years Doug has given a very special prize, “a tug” to tournament winners: copies of a framed replication of a cartoon strip by “Garfield” creator Jim Davis.

 

“Chris had a real interest in cartoons and a talent for creating them,” he said. “After his death, we learned from his girlfriend Kristy that he’d researched every ‘Garfield’ strip. When I told this to a friend in Florida, he said, ‘Oh, my God! My neighbor is on the Garfield board.’”
Jim Davis “divined”, in Doug’s words, a three-panel cartoon which begins with Garfield smiling — a first? — and ends with him saying, “We will never forget you, Chris.”


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