In addition to Mel Webster passing away unexpectedly last week, there were several other notable events that took place: Facebook stock plunged, Donald Trump’s Approval Rating skyrocketed, Northern Kentucky lost one of its few U.C. Bearcats Fans, the Bengals lost a detractor, and one less person will point out the shortcomings of the University of Kentucky Wildcats. Perhaps his final Facebook post lampooned FC Cincinnati and the TQL Stadium.
Melvin enjoyed being controversial and had a way of rubbing his hands together in glee when he got someone’s goat, or created some form of chaos. There are few umpires or referees in Northern Kentucky who haven’t heard Mel tell them that “Helen Keller could have made that call.”
Melvin was harmless. He would never intentionally cause any individual harm, but enjoyed “stirring the pot.” He was an omni-present persona within our Brossart Sports community, be it coaching softball, announcing a boys basketball game, or formerly serving as our Athletic Director from 1997 through 2014. He was our program’s “good humor man.”
When my phone rang, chances were good that it was Mel Webster. During the period that I was sick and missed several Brossart games at the Henry County Tournament, Mel called almost daily, checking on me.
Melvin had no family. We were his family. Grady Brown, Tom Baynum, myself, Tom Seither, and Coach Matt Reinhart all looked after Mel. We knew something was wrong with Mel when he was unable to fulfill his duties as our PA announcer, late in the season. It came to a head one morning a few weeks back when he was unable to get out of bed, called 911, and embarked on a week-long hospital stay. During that time they drained an inordinate amount of fluid from his body, put him on a diet, and sent him back into society at a svelte 250 pounds. When I spoke to him a few days ago he was bragging that he now weighed less than me, was feeling the best he had in ten years, and was looking forward to the upcoming softball season. His only caveat was that he wore out easily and was having trouble getting his strength back. I joked that if he would put 20 pounds back on he would probably be good to go.
Melvin got his wish, he attended softball practice last Tuesday, unfortunately for the last time.
Melvin will be remembered as the former PA announcer at Walton-Verona High School in the 70s, and was the announcer at many 9th Region Tournaments during those years. He and Tom Cummins teamed up to create the Famous Recipe Tournament, and the Famous Recipe Stars of the Week, and conducted an annual Famous Recipe Stars Banquet with top named celebrities appearing as the keynote speakers. I attended many of these banquets and attended many of the Tournament “hospitality rooms” that Mel ran at the Drawbridge Inn. They were a who’s who of outstanding coaches and sports icons from throughout the state. They were first-class events. Our Brossart girls teams played in a couple of these tournaments and we hosted a few games in our gym. I still have a program from one of the years that we participated in the late 80s.
In 1992, when Tom Seither, our principal, called Mel Webster and asked him if he knew anyone who might be interested in coaching our softball team, Mel took the job. In 1997 he took over as our Athletic Director. Mel was instrumental in the formation of our football program and was known state-wide for his position on gender-equity. He was THE AUTHORITY on Title IX. There was one year during his tenure as our AD that he couldn’t find a Volleyball coach, so he coached that team himself. In his younger years, Melvin also served as an umpire for 22 years, and worked 20 Regional Championship games.during that time span.
Most recently he organized and conducted the Northern Kentucky Athletic Director’s Hall of Fame dinner in which Bob Rowe and Mike Code were inducted this past fall. It too, was a first-class event. Mel’s strength was in creating programs. While our AD he created annual All-Sports programs, complete with team histories and individual and team records. I still refer to them on occasion. His Famous Recipe Tournament programs and the NKADA Hall of Fame Programs were top notch. He still produced the program for the 9th Region Tournaments conducted at the BB&T Arena..
I will miss Mel for his friendship, loyalty, and mutual respect that we shared. He was the ultimate Northern Kentucky Sports historian, and much as it took me 7 years to write the Ken Shields book, Melvin has been working for seemingly ad infinitum to complete his book on the history of Northern Kentucky Basketball, which he claimed to be nearing completion. I can only hope that his manuscript is somehow decipherable on his computer that can be salvaged and perhaps published in his memory, as his legacy. Too bad he didn’t live to see the new baseball and softball complex in the works at the MAC – The “Mel Webster Baseball/Softball Complex” has a nice ring to it.