People volunteer for many reasons, for some it offers the chance to give something back to the community or make a difference to the people around them. For others it provides an opportunity to develop new skills or build on existing experience and knowledge. Regardless of the motivation, what unites them all is finding the experience both challenging and rewarding. For Mel and Sue DeLong volunteering means serving the Lord, quietly!
Mel DeLong was born December 7, 1938 in Seattle. His dad worked for The Boeing Company but didn’t enjoy the big city, big company life style so he moved the family to La Grande, OR where he bought and operated a “Flying A” service station for five years. It was five years of struggling with employee problems, marginal profits and a 24/7 business. The family then moved back to West Seattle and Mel’s dad returned to Boeing to finish out his career.
Mel graduated from West Seattle High School in 1956, joined the Air Force and assigned to the Strategic Air Command (SAC) working as a Multi Engine Jet Mechanic. He served four years of active duty followed by four years in the Individual Ready Reserve.
Mel married while on active duty and after his discharge from the Air Force they moved to the Seattle area. Unfortunately, this marriage only lasted five years. When he arrived in Seattle he worked at a couple service stations before securing a position at The Boeing Company in 1961. At Boeing he was classified as a “B” Mechanic assigned to the KC-135 project. Next, he was transferred to the Boeing 733 Supersonic Transport (SST) project that later changed its name to the Boeing 2707, working as a “Research Electrician”.
The Boeing 2707 was the first American supersonic transport (SST). Boeing won a competition for a government-funded contract to build an American SST, Boeing began development at its facilities in Seattle, WA. The design emerged a large aircraft with seating for 250 to 300 passengers and cruising speeds of approximately Mach 3 (about 2,200 MPH). It was intended to be much larger and faster than preceding SST designs such as Concorde. A key design feature of the 2707 was its use of a swing wing configuration. During development the required weight and size of this mechanism continued to grow, forcing the team to start over using a conventional delta wing. Rising costs and the lack of a clear market led to its cancellation in 1971, before two prototypes had been completed, that ended Mel’s career at The Boeing Company.
Mel next worked for Air Reduction Company, an industrial gas plant in Seattle for a year. That job led to a cryogenics company in Vancouver, WA where they made liquid Oxygen, Nitrogen and Argon. Mel began his 17-year career as a Cryogenic Technologist and ended as the Assistant Plant Manager in charge of 80 employees! As you can imagine this was a very stressful job and Mel ask the Lord for help finding a less intense position, his prayers were answered in just two weeks. Because of his network in the liquefied gas business he was hired by Vancouver Welding Supply where he worked 20 years as a Specialty Gas Product Manager, selling exotic gasses. Mel retired in 2005.
Sue grew up in Portland, OR and graduated from Tillamook High School. Her mother owned a flower shop where Sue learned how to make beautiful corsages. While working at the flower shop and raising a family, Sue made thousands of corsages and bows for 20 years.
During the last ten years of his career Mel would have lunch several days a week, at the Burgerville restaurant in Vancouver where Sue Homsley had worked since 1993, and they would talk. The talk led to more talk and finally on November 7, 2007 they were married at the Little White Chapel in Las Vegas, minus Elvis!
Sue - “Mel came into my life when I really need a friend, he is a real gentleman and a great listener. I was a widow and really appreciated all the things he did to help me. In time we realized what we had in each other.” Mel - “Sue is a wonderful person with a big heart, beautiful on the inside. Sue truly cares for people and is always helping others, she’s an amazing person.”
Sick and tired of rain and gray sky Mel and Sue made the decision to move East. They had spent time with friends in Chelan and they really liked it here. January 2008, they purchased the perfect home in Chelan Falls, overlooking the mighty Columbia River and have lived there ever since. Sue loves gardening and you can tell it by their beautiful yard filled with many plants and flowers.
“Betty Decker invited us to North Shore Bible Church in 2008. I came from a very legalistic church so I had to adjust to “our church”. We appreciate the effort Pastor Craig puts into his sermons. Jesus is the focal point, the way it should be. We have met some very neat people, God has really blessed us,” Sue went on.
Riding fast motorcycles was always Mel’s passion. He has owned several amazing bikes; his favorite was a 1300cc BMW that redlined at 186 MPH!
Unfortunately, in 1999 Mel crashed his Suzuki TL1000R, 40 miles west of Modesto, CA while traveling over 100 MPH. This landed him in the hospital for several days with many broken bones and other assorted injuries.
This didn’t end his motorcycle career, he downsized a bit, purchasing a 1000cc Spyder (three wheels) that he rode for thousands and thousands of miles with Sue right behind him.
Mel suffers from Osteoarthritis, also known as "wear and tear" arthritis. Over time bones rub together, causing intense pain. The 29 bones of your hands and wrists come together to form many small joints that can be affected by Osteoarthritis. For this reason, Mel’s career of riding motorcycles has come to an end.
Both Sue and Mel have volunteer hearts. Sue helps Chris Rayment with all funerals held and North Shore Bible Church, helping with the food and setting up buffets. Sue works at the Chelan Food Bank three mornings a week and Habitat for Humanity four hours a week. She belongs to the Sunrise Women’s Bible study on Thursday mornings at North Shore. Mel and Sue are part of the Ushers and Greeters team, an important function at our Church. Sue belongs to the Women’s Auxiliary at the Chelan Fire Department so both Mel and Sue volunteer for the Chelan Fire Department’s yearly Pancake Breakfast. Sue also helps out at Earth Day and in December the Manger Mall.
Mel spent six years serving as a volunteer fireman for the Chelan Fire Department, working the Chelan Falls station. In 2017 Mel was chosen by Washington State Fire Fighters Association as Volunteer Support Person of the Year.
For many years Mel has helped with maintenance at North Shore Bible Church, working every Thursday. “There is always something that needs my attention,” Mel said. He works with electrical, plumbing and building repairs. “Mel is a real gem, a God sent to our church, always willing to help and I look forward to seeing Mel’s smiling face every Thursday,” said Chris Rayment. Because of his Osteoarthritis Mel will be stepping down soon as the maintenance work causes even more pain.
The fun part about writing these stories is learning neat things people do! Sue enjoys being a “pen pal” and currently corresponds with 70 people, mainly in the United States. All letters are handwritten! She also likes collecting coasters and napkins from places all over the world.
Together Mel and Sue have five children, nine grandchildren and five great grandchildren. Next time you see Mel and Sue tell them thank you for all they do for North Shore Bible Church and our community.
By Norm Manly