Melvin Kenneth Mantzey peacefully left this earth on September 4, 2018, his heart was full and he communicated that to all of us. Born in Dawn, MO, to Charles and Marie (Robinson) Mantzey. Mel experienced more in his life than any storybook could tell. He started First grade in Chillicothe, MO and then the family moved to Utica, MT.
In 1945, Mel signed up for the US Marine Corp. He was in the 1st Bn., 5th Marines, 1st Division. His letters home to his mother described the landscape around his boot camp in California as desert “with sagebrush”. His service to our country was during a time of little known defense. His brigade was called into North China and Mel was involved in the defense of the Ammo Supply Point at Hsin Ho, south of Tientsin, where they fended off Chinese Communist soldiers, sustaining fatalities and soldiers wounded. Mel never got over the terrors of the night rotations of 4 hours on and 8 hours off.
He was Honorably Discharged in December of 1947 as a Corporal, Rifle Marksman. Mel returned to Clyde Park and worked for the Shelhamer family. This work included working with the Quarter horses and Thoroughbreds Asa trained and sold to the US Calvalry.
Mel married Joy Marlene Young in June of 1950 and they went on to work on the Armstrong ranch near Yellowstone Park. Eventually, they found the A & W business and moved to the state of Washington.
The A & W years were good ones and the root beer paid off. Mel built the first A & W in the State of Washington. He would build one and then leave Marlene to run them while he built another one. The A & W’s were opened seasonally. In the off season, Mel worked for Reynolds Aluminum. Their A & W’s were also built in the San Jose area of California where their son, Kenneth, was born.
In 1963, Mel and Marlene got out of the A & W business and moved back to Montana with two of their children, Amy and Ken. Their dream was to be able to raise their family on a ranch and they purchased the Lee Place in Clyde Park. Gil was born at this time.
Mel realized very quickly that the ranching business was not as cash liquid as the A & W business had been. After running the ranch full time for about a year, he found the building on 10th Ave South in Great Falls, MT and renovated the building to be an A & W.
While in Great Falls, Mel opened 3 A & W’s, an Orange Julius, and A & W with his lifelong friend, and business partner, Doug Magers, in Helena, MT. At this time, he also opened a Western Wear store in Great Falls and Pocatello, ID. During this time, he and Doug went in together and bought the O’Haire Manor with 2 other partners. In the late 1970’s, Mel and Marlene divorced, and Mel moved full time to Great Falls, where he met Janice Johnson.
Throughout the 1980’s, Mel operated Cars-R-Us Used Car Sales in Billings. He always said he did it to prove that car salesman could be honest.
In 1994, Mel decided to buy out the other business interests in the O’Haire Manor, now known as O’Haire Motor Inn, and take a stab at running the place. Mermaids were born in 1996. As the story goes, Mel warned Sandra, laughed, and said, “You will regret this one.” Legends have been made and fame has been won with this decision. Sandra and Mel worked side by side through thick and thin, “Mr. M” was her name for Mel, until “Dad” fit better.
Mel was a U.S. Marine, cowboy, businessman and all-round father influence to many. The family wishes to thank the staff at the Benefis Grandview for their amazing care in Mel’s last years on this earth.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to Toys for Tots, c/o Marylou Brewster, 1120 Avenue C NW, Great Falls, MT 59404. The Toys for Tots organization was near and dear to Mel’s heart as a Marine, father, grandfather and human being.
To read the complete obituary and share condolences, visit the Schnider Funeral Home website.