Melvin Suhd
 
  Melvin Suhd
 
  Born:
  12/08/1924
 
  Died:
  08/02/2013
 





Lifestory

Melvin Suhd

December 8, 1924-August 2, 2013

 

Melvin was born and raised in Detroit, MI. He graduated from Central High School just as the United States was entering WWII. He joined the military as part of the 42nd Infantry (Rainbow) Division where he participated in the Battle of the Bulge and was part of the first liberators of Dachau Concentration Camp on April 29, 1945.

Melvin earned a teaching credential from Wayne State University. His elementary school classrooms integrated children with learning and other disabilities in the mid 1950’s. He taught at E.M.U., Lesley, Pacific Oaks, CSUN, Goddard and UWW colleges. As a PhD student at UCLA in the 1970’s, Mel and his colleagues developed a theory of Pluralistic Education. Mel helped start some of the first external degree programs with Goddard and Antioch Colleges which let students develop their own educational curricula and gave them credit for their life experiences.

Mel was involved in the humanist psychology movement. He started a religious organization: The Association for the Integration of the Whole Person (AIWP) as a way to promote both his notion of humanism and his desire to expand the goal of lifelong learning. He founded/established the original University Without Walls, Antioch West, Sierra, Summit and University for Integrated Learning, from which he retired.

He was also a committed social justice activist. Mel walked with Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, and Washington, D.C., and was with Ceasar Chavez in Modesto, CA. He participated in many anti-Vietnam war rallies and protests which culminated in a 20 day jail stint for blocking the doors at the Oakland Army Induction Center.

Melvin is survived by his 3 children: Glenn, Mike with Kate Kausch, and Lauren with Wally Brondstatter. His three grandchildren: Jennifer Suhd-Brondstatter, James Aura-Gullick and Jordan Aura Gullick. His Sister, Flora Hommel and her daughter Claudia. He is preceded in death by his former wife, Sunny (Yetta) Varner nee. Weinman.

A Celebration of Life is planned for Sunday, September 29, 1:00 PM at PS1, 1225 Broadway, Santa Monica, CA 90404. melvinsuhd@gmail.com.

 

We had a wonderful time at PS1 yesterday. There were about 50 people in attendance.  There was plenty of food and drink and a time for getting acquanted and re-acquanted with old friends, relatives and people who's lives Mel touched.  We had a gathering in the wonderful auditorium at PS1 (Thanks Joel and Elly) where people could recount their rememberences of Mel and how he affected them. There wasn't a dry eye in the house.  My thanks to all who made this possible and who attended.

Glenn

 

I’m Lauren Suhd, or Laurie.  My dad Mel, Melvin, Meier, Sudsy, Melvin Q. Watchpocket the 3rd, among other names, some of which we can’t say here, was an interesting guy.  A man of many contradictions.

He was a man of his time – part of what Tom Brokow called the “greatest generation” yet in many ways he was ahead of his time as well.

Raised during the Great Depression, he was always facinated with money, what it could buy and what it represented.  He could be very chintzy—one of his favorite words.  He loved places like the dollar store yet I remember going into a record store with him and watching as he purchased probably close to fifty record albums or more—not on sale either.

This theme ran throughout his life.  While he might argue to the moon and back about what he thought you owed him,  he wasn’t above being extravagantly generous as well.

A veteran of WWII—the Battle of the Bulge, liberating Dachau Concentration camp, killing a man with his bare hands, Mel returned a changed man.  He spent the rest of his life trying to work for peace and social justice, trying to overcome what he had witnessed and done.

After the war, Mel became a teacher, which ended up being one of his greatest passions.

Even though he tried a lot of other jobs and professions—gas station owner, door to door salesman, Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics coordinator, he always came back to education.

Mel was a dynamic personality.  He could be effusive or a virtual recluse—especially toward the end of his life.  But you always  knew he was around.  He could be a joy to be with or a royal pain in the ass.  I was proud of my Dad though.  He wasn’t afraid of speaking his mind or taking a stand on an issue.  He went to Selma, AL and the famous march on Washington with Martin Luther King Jr., He walked with Cesar Chavez in Delano.  I think if Mahatma Gandhi were alive when he was, Mel would have found a way to be with him as well.  One of my proudest moments was when dad was arrested—along with Joan Baez—for blocking the entrance to the Oakland, CA induction center during the Viet Nam war.  For this he spent 21 days in prison.

We often had conflicts, my dad and I, but I always knew he loved me deeply.  I always knew I could count on him , that he would always be there for me.

Mel was angry a lot, but I think his lifelong path was an effort to overcome that anger, to find ways to bring people together, to learn how to love in a better way.  Ultimately, I think his quest for social and economic justice, for education in its various forms were all part of his life process toward leaving this world a better and richer place than when he came into it.  I’m convinced that he accomplished his goals.

My life is by far richer because I was lucky enough to be his daughter.

I want to thank all of you for being here.  I especially want to thank Ellie and Joel Pelcyger for generously allowing us to use this amazing space at Pluralistic School 1. 

I want to recognize my stepmother and friend Bobbi Liberton who was an integral part of setting up both AIWP and UWW.  Mel would not have done it without her.  All of Mel’s dear friends and family who came from near and far to be with us. And finally my brothers-Glenn, Mike, Brad, Bryan, sisters: Jan, Johanna and Maria and our kids: jenny, Jordan and Jamie.  Much love.

 

I’m Lauren Suhd, or Laurie.  My dad Mel, Melvin, Meier, Sudsy, Melvin Q. Watchpocket the 3rd, among other names, some of which we can’t say here, was an interesting guy.  A man of many contradictions.

He was a man of his time –part of what Tom Brokow called the “greatest generation” yet in many ways he was ahead of his time as well.

Raised during the Great Depression, he was always facinated with money, what it could buy and what it represented.  He could be very chintzy—one of his favorite words.  He loved places like the dollar store yet I remember going into a record store with him and watching as he purchased probably close to fifty record albums or more—not on sale either.

This theme ran throughout his life.  While he might argue to the moon and back about what he thought you owed him,  he wasn’t above being extravagantly generous as well.

A veteran of WWII—the Battle of the Bulge, liberating Dachau Concentration camp, killing a man with his bare hands, Mel returned a changed man.  He spent the rest of his life trying to work for peace and social justice, trying to overcome what he had witnessed and done.

After the war, Mel became a teacher, which ended up being one of his greatest passions.

Even though he tried a lot of other jobs and professions—gas station owner, door to door salesman, Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics coordinator, he always came back to education.

Mel was a dynamic personality.  He could be effusive or a virtual recluse—especially toward the end of his life.  But you always  knew he was around.  He could be a joy to be with or a royal pain in the ass.  I was proud of my Dad though.  He wasn’t afraid of speaking his mind or taking a stand on an issue.  He went to Selma, AL and the famous march on Washington with Martin Luther King Jr., He walked with Cesar Chavez in Delano.  I think if Mahatma Gandhi were alive when he was, Mel would have found a way to be with him as well.  One of my proudest moments was when dad was arrested—along with Joan Baez—for blocking the entrance to the Oakland, CA induction center during the Viet Nam war.  For this he spent 21 days in prison.

We often had conflicts, my dad and I, but I always knew he loved me deeply.  I always knew I could count on him , that he would always be there for me.

Mel was angry a lot, but I think his lifelong path was an effort to overcome that anger, to find ways to bring people together, to learn how to love in a better way.  Ultimately, I think his quest for social and economic justice, for education in its various forms were all part of his life process toward leaving this world a better and richer place than when he came into it.  I’m convinced that he accomplished his goals.

My life is by far richer because I was lucky enough to be his daughter.

I want to thank all of you for being here.  I especially want to thank Ellie and Joel Pelcyger for generously allowing us to use this amazing space at Pluralistic School 1. 

I want to recognize my stepmother and friend Bobbi Liberton who was an integral part of setting up both AIWP and UWW.  Mel would not have done it without her.  All of Mel’s dear friends and family who came from near and far to be with us. And finally my brothers-Glenn, Mike, Brad, Bryan, sisters: Jan, Johanna and Maria and our kids: Jenny, Jordan and Jamie.  Much love.

 

                          Mike’s

First of all I want to thank Ellie and Joel Pelcyger and all of the people at PS1.  And a special thanks to Brad Shimada, for continuing to let Mel be part of the legacy of this great school.

I’m Michael Paul, Moshe Pinchus, George Washington Suhd.  Middle child of Melvin Q. Watchpocket and Yetta Sunny Varner whose 87th birthday would have been today.  I want to focus on the early years of Mel and my development as a kid because I’m aware that others will be able to comment on his professional life.

I’m thinking that the theme I want to focus on is “openings”. Open education, open house, open heart.

One of the things that Mel was involved in and probably instrumental in establishing in his early teaching career was the concept of outdoor education.  A week long field trip of camping where kids studied botany and  zoology, went hiking, sang around the campfire and learned not only to enjoy and appreciate nature but how to get along with others.  In going through Mel’s papers, I ran into two letters from irate parents who insisted that this wasn’t an appropriate form of education. 

Another opening for me was (pull out a green pepper) an early trip with my father to Toledo, OH, where he took me to resupply his tube testing clients.  His company was called Mello Manufacturing.  Early in the morning, in between playing his harmonica and constantly pointing out gorgeous views, we talked about what we were going to have for breakfast.  In those days, in rural Ohio and Michigan, there were roadside fresh vegetable stands.  As the sun was coming up, Mel pulled into one of those stands where he bought us cucumbers, tomatoes and bell peppers.  After wiping off a pepper on his shirt, he handed it to me to eat.  I had the first and best non-rice- crispie breakfast in my life.    He opened me up to a new sensory world.

In addition to his test tube business, Mel tried a variety of other jobs to support his family including: selling Guardian Service Ware-aluminum cookware, Revelation Vacuum cleaners, chain link fences, World Book Encyclopedia’s, Fuller Brush materials and operating a baseball card vending machine business. 

Another concept that Mel was a pioneer for me was the idea of the open house.  In two of his early  experiences we had the closest faculty house to those schools—in Oak Park and Ypsilanti, MI.  He was known to have large working lunch meetings in our living rooms, employing us kids and Yetta in assembly-line sandwich making and Campbell  soup can opening and cooking.  The other part of our open house experience was in Northridge, CA. when Mel was in a PhD. program at UCLA, at Pacific Oaks College, and as a Headstart Coordinator.  During my Jr. and Sr. high school time, we never locked our door.   During that time, it was not uncommon for the house to be filled with as many strangers as family members.  Our house was the stopping off place for many of the Western migration of family, friends and aquaintances in the 60’s. This refuge at some point included young men on leave from places like Camp Pendleton Marine base who stayed with us for R & R.  Some stopped at our home as part of the modern underground railroad of men heading to Canada.  It wasn’t uncommon for our friends to end up at our house as well, including a young woman who had been kicked out of her own home when her father found birth control pills in her dresser.  I want to credit my Mom as much as Mel in creating this open and loving home.

Mel also opened us up to the joys of travel.  Our family was the first that we knew who went camping.  We visited virtually every state in the union. Mel travels to Europe, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Nicaragua, Cuba, India and many more places.  Sometimes with his children, sometimes with his grandchildren, sometimes with others.  One result of this is that not only do his children love to travel, but his grandchildren are also inveterate travelers as well.

I had Mel as my 6th grade teacher.  He taught me well as a sixth grader and throughout my life.

I want to thank my family and friends for letting me live my own version of one of Mel’s favorite mottos: “Love as the theme for life.”

There was a boy!