Longtime Steamboat Springs resident Melvin Callahan Hitchens died March 8, 2006, at Yampa Valley Medical Center. He was 83.
He was born in the homesteader cabin of his grandfather near the back of the Overlook Ranch near Milner. He was born at 2 a.m. Jan. 12, 1923 in his mother's bedroom when it was 20 degrees below zero outside.
He joked that he "never got warm again."
Melvin lived his life in various places, but he never got the Yampa Valley out of his system.
He was a pilot in the Army Air Corps. He was trained to drop paratroopers. He served his time in the Philippines. He never dropped paratroopers in battle, luckily. He never wanted to kill anyone, and he didn't.
After dropping food to the entangled infantry in Windinap, Philippines, for six weeks in terrible flying weather, he was awarded the Air Medal.
Later, the "lieutenant," as he was affectionately and unaffectionately called, led a flight of 10 L-5s of the 25th Squadron over the mountains and jungles of the islands. They could navigate to any of the important airstrips in the 8,000 islands of the Philippines.
"I guess we were the original bush pirates," he said.
Melvin was a ski jumper, a pilot and he loved to fly. He jokingly said there were three supreme moments in his life: "The first time I came off a big ski jump, the first time I flew an airplane, and you know the rest," he said.
He will be missed.
Melvin was preceded in death by his parents; sister Dorothy Jean More; and brother Errold Hitchens.
He is survived by his daughter, Candy McNearny; granddaughter Jennifer France; grandson Robert McNearny; seven great-granddaughters -- and they are great; sister Wilma Watkins of Lacey Spring, Va.; numerous nieces and nephews; and devoted friends Greg Lee and Ardys Brookshire of Steamboat.
A graveside service was held March 13, 2006, at Steamboat Springs Cemetery with officers of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 4264 officiating.
Memorial donations may be made to the Steamboat Winter Ski Jumping Club in care of Grant Mortuary, 621 Yampa Ave., Craig, CO 81625.