McKOWNVILLE — Michael G. Melas, M.D., a local physician, a leader in the Greek Orthodox Church, and devoted family man, died peacefully at the Daughters of Sarah Nursing Home in Albany, on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013, after a long illness. He was 87.
“He was shy in some respects,” said his wife of 55 years, Jane Melas, “but always able to talk to his patients…He loved his patients.”
She went on, “Even at the nursing home, he thought he was there to work. They got a big kick out of that. He never forgot he was a doctor.”
Dr. Melas was born on Oct. 25, 1925, to the late George and Eugenia Melas; he was the third of five children. His parents were both born in Greece.
“He was very, very close with his Greek Orthodox faith, and very proud of his Greek heritage,” said his wife. “He knew the Greek language before he went to school.”
His father had a Greek restaurant, where Dr. Melas worked when he was growing up.
He was raised in Albany and attended Albany High School.
In 1943, he went into the United States Army, serving in Italy in the 10th Mountain Division. “He went in right after high school,” said his wife. “He was just 18. They taught him how to ski.”
During the war, fighting in difficult mountainous terrain, Dr. Melas forged bonds that lasted a lifetime. He was an avid and enthusiastic member of the 10th Mountain Division Association, and attended many reunions, his wife said.
During the war, he received a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart, and three Campaign Stars.
After the war, Dr. Melas studied at Siena College, where he received his bachelor of science in biology in 1949; he attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and graduated with a master of science degree in biology in 1951. He was a Full Emeritus Member of Sigma Xi at RPI.
After RPI, he attended Albany Medical College, where he received his Doctor of Medicine in 1955. He continued on as an intern, assistant resident, and chief resident in medicine through 1959.
In 1959, Dr. Melas set up his medical practice in Albany, treating many generations of families, until 1990, when he retired. “After he retired — at 65 because of a back disability — former patients would always recognize him and say how they missed him,” said Mrs. Melas.
He met his wife as a young doctor at Albany Medical Center where she was a nurse. “At the hospital, they called him the Greek god. He was Greek and very handsome,” recalled Mrs. Melas. “He was wonderful…We had a very good marriage.”
The couple settled in Guilderland in 1960, in a Colonial on Western Avenue. “We were in the same home in McKownville for 52 years,” said Mrs. Melas.
Her husband liked Guilderland, she said, and in 1973, ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the Guilderland Town Board. Dr. Melas was a Democrat, and the board at that time was Republican.
“He liked the people here,” Mrs. Melas said of Guilderland. “He was very active in the McKownville fire department. He examined the new recruits.”
Although Dr. Melas had little time to spare with a busy medical practice, he was a “wonderful father” to their son and daughter, said Mrs. Melas. “He took us to Greece twice,” she said.
His dedication to medicine went beyond caring for his patients.
Dr. Melas served as president of the Alumni Association of Albany Medical College, a member of the board of trustees at Albany Medical College, and the Area Medical Director for the New York Telephone Company. He served on the staff of Albany Medical Center, St. Peter’s Hospital, and Child’s Hospital, and as associate clinical professor of Albany Medical College.
Throughout his life, Dr. Melas drew great strength from his faith, his wife said, and made many contributions to the church.
Dr. Melas was a lifelong member of St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Church, where he served on the Parish Council for over 25 years, including eight years as president.
He was a longtime member of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocesan Committee of North and South America, a trustee of St. Basil’s Orphanage, and a member of the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association. In addition, he served as the vice chairman of the founding committee of the St. Sophia Senior Citizens Apartments, beginning in 1980, and served on the board continuously, in some capacity, since that time, until his death.
In 1972, Patriarch Athenagoras named him Archon Aktouarios, the highest honor that can be bestowed on a layman in the Greek Orthodox faith. An Archon is an honoree by His All Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch, for his outstanding service to the church.
“He was a devoted physician who compassionately treated anyone who sought his help,” his family wrote in a tribute. “He was a loving family man who cherished spending time with his children and grandchildren.”
The family would like to thank the staff of the Blue Unit at the Daughters of Sarah Nursing home for their caring, comfort, and support during his illness.
Dr. Melas is survived by his wife of 55 years, Jane (Feist) Melas, of Guilderland; his children, George Melas, and his wife, Kari, of Delmar, and Andrea Papandrea, and her husband, James, of Guilderland; his grandchildren, Trystan and Jesse Melas, and Michelle and Matthew Papandrea; his sisters, Christine Marcklinger and Angeline Koutelis; his sister-in-law, Ann Melas; Louise Phillips, and her husband, Joseph; Roberta Feist; and many nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends.
His brother, Alexander, died before him, as did his sister, Irene, and his brothers-in-law, William, John, Nicholas, and John.
A funeral was held on Jan. 26 at St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Church in Albany. Interment was at the Graceland Cemetery.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Alzheimer’s Association, 4 Pine West Plaza, Building 4, Washington Avenue Extension, Albany, NY 12205, or to St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Church, 440 Whitehall Road, Albany, NY 12208.
— Melissa Hale-Spencer and Anne Hayden