Melvin Vern LawsAugust 30, 1923 ~ October 28, 2017 (age 94)
On Saturday, October 28, 2017, while waiting for his beloved Boise State football game to start, the Reverend Doctor Melvin Vern Laws, known to everyone as Mel, left this life and entered heaven. He was 94 years old.
Mel was born near Rogue River, Oregon, in August, 1923. He was born prematurely in a tent in the woods when his mother was cooking at his father’s logging company camp. His brother, Delbert, was born two years later. When Mel was about six years old, his father died from an injury suffered in a logging accident. His mother made the decision to move with her boys to North Bend, Washington, to be closer to her family. Mel’s grandfather, Charles Rose “Papa” Pickett, stepped in as the male presence in the boys’ lives. As a small boy, Mel watched planes fly overhead from the nearby airbase and dreamed of being a pilot.
A few years later Mel’s mother remarried, and a job opportunity for her new husband resulted in a move to Kelso, Washington. Mel continued his schooling and graduated from Kelso High School in 1940, when he was 16 years old. He started college, but his studies were interrupted by WWII and the attack on Pearl Harbor. When he went to enlist, he was told he would have to wait a year to be old enough to be commissioned as a Navy officer and pilot. After attending college one more year, he realized his dream to fly when he was commissioned as a Naval Aviator.
In 1943, while stationed at Jacksonville Naval Air Station in Florida, this 21-year-old new ensign met 17-year-old Ruth Louise Knight on a city bus. Three months later he found out that he was being shipped out to fly from aircraft carriers in the South Pacific. Never one to let a good opportunity pass him by, he decided to ask Ruth to marry him. They were married in December, 1944, and remained partners in life until Ruth passed away in 2015. Twice in their Navy years, Ruth received telegrams that her new husband was missing in action. During a severe plane crash in the South Pacific, Mel received an injury to his head and right eye that affected his vision. While it eventually healed and he was able to fly again, that injury would affect many aspects of his future.
He decided to stay in the Navy after the war, working as a flight instructor and test pilot, where he flew some of the first jets. He spent a year as an acrobatic pilot in a Navy exhibition team called the ‘Hell Raisers.’ In his 20’s, as his vision worsened, the Navy restricted his flying, and he left the exhibition team. Shortly after he left, as a result of many citizen complaints, the Navy decided to change the exhibition team’s name to the ‘Blue Angels.’ He made the decision to leave active Navy duty in 1946 to take care of his wife and new daughter, Linda.
In 1950 Mel moved his family to Nampa, Idaho, to study for the ministry. In 1952 Mel, Ruth, and Linda welcomed a new member of their family, Melanie. Upon graduation from Northwest Nazarene College in 1953, Mel went to University of Utah, to continue his studies in medical counseling, with the thought of returning to active duty. While he was still in the graduate program, he accepted a position at a Nazarene church that had had to close its doors a few months before. He worked with the small congregation to revive their fellowship. Fifty years later Mel’s work was honored by the now-thriving church as a pivot point in its history and a force behind its survival. Although he started on a path that he hoped would take him back to active duty in the Navy, as a result of the work with that church, Mel began to realize that God had other plans for his life.
Mel Laws was a true evangelist who made growth a priority in every church he pastored. He pastored four churches in the next 20 years: Bellingham, Washington; Ontario, Oregon; Lincoln, Nebraska; and Portland, Oregon. In 1956, while pastoring in Bellingham, the family welcomed the third child, John.
When all their children had left home, Mel and Ruth decided to fulfill another dream that they shared – returning to the South Pacific as missionaries. Their 3-year missionary assignment was to Angeles City, Philippines. This ministry was a time of renewal and joy for Mel and Ruth and another pivot point in their lives. During this time, Mel continued his studies and earned his doctorate. When their assignment ended, he accepted a teaching position at MidAmerica Nazarene University in Olathe, Kansas. He discovered a love for teaching in marketing and management. Over the next ten years he served as Director of Adult and Continuing Education, Assistant Academic Dean, and several other university positions.
Upon retirement from the university, Mel agreed to pastor one last church in Castro Valley, California. This experience was particularly rewarding as he had an opportunity to work side-by-side with the pastor of a Korean-language congregation who shared their building. Five years later Mel and Ruth ‘retired’ again and moved back to Nampa, where he joined the staff of Nampa First Church on a part-time basis. They loved their life in Nampa where they were active in the church and traveled in their motor coach with the King’s Travelers. They especially enjoyed volunteering at the Trinity Pines Camp, where they went each summer to help with painting, repairs, and cleaning up the grounds in preparation for Nazarene youth camps.
Ruth was struck with Alzheimer’s disease and Mel served as full-time caregiver and support system for the last ten years of her life. He described this effort as his life’s most important work. In every way he showed commitment, compassion and love, even when faced with the worst this disease could throw at him.
Mel is preceded in death by his parents, Walter Henry Laws and mother Liddia Pickett Laws Norton; his wife Ruth Knight Laws; and his younger brother the Rev. Delbert Laws. He is survived by his three children and their spouses, Linda and Gary Lawson of Nampa, Idaho; Melanie and John Alkire of Bend, Oregon; and John and Kamila Laws of Gilbert, Arizona. At the time of his passing he had nine grandchildren, 16 great-grandchildren, and one great-great grandson.
The Family will greet family and friends at a viewing from 10:00-11:30 A.M. Wednesday November 8, 2017 at the Nampa Funeral Home, Yraguen Chapel, 415 12th ave S. Nampa, Idaho. At 1:00 P.M. Mel will be laid to rest with Ruth at the Idaho State Veteran’s Cemetery. A celebration of his life will be held at 10:00 A.M. Thursday, November 9 at the Nampa First Church of the Nazarene. Donations in his memory are requested to be sent to Trinity Pines Camp and Conference Center: PO Box 1269, Cascade, ID 83611.