City of Stamford Citizen of the Year 

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Mel Rich

U.S. Navy

A native of Stamford, Mel Rich demonstrated early on his enterprising, entrepreneurial spirit. Growing up during the Great Depression he and his brother hung around the trolley tracks on Shippan Avenue, chatting up the workers who were getting ready to pave the road. They’d give them the iron, which they in turn would haul to sell at Rubio Brothers. When they’d saved enough, they’d head off to The Strand for a double feature!

 

Mel graduated from Stamford High in 1943, joined the Navy and over the 25 months he served he trained in three different schools. The first was the Navy’s photography school in Pensacola, Florida, often photographing in the Dauntless dive bomber. He then trained at gunnery school in Jacksonville and then went to aircrew training in Fort Lauderdale. Mel completed his training in 1945, was given leave before being deployed overseas and the day he reported for duty – August 14, 1945 – was the day the war ended!

 

After the war Mel went in to business, first buying a Texaco station which he ran for three years. After selling it he bought The Three Gables, which was basically a pizzeria but he quickly turned it into a night club, booking acts like Sarah Vaughn, Dizzy Gillespie, The Glenn Miller Band and Carmen McRae.  It wasn’t long after that Mel started producing major concerts. Over the years he produced Tony Bennett with Count Basie and his orchestra, Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra for two nights at the Hartford Civic Center and Ella Fitzgerald, to name a few.

 

Mel and his wife Olga, who raised two children, Mel Jr. and Larry, also have two grandchildren, Brittany and Colby.

2016