By Valerie Vinyard
Modeling Kindness and Commitment
Stuart Mellan and his wife, Nancy, have five kids, all of whom are in their 30s. The two originally met in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and started dating after both becoming widowed. Stuart had two kids, Nancy three.
The two eventually married, blending the family. When Stuart was recruited to be president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona, the Mellans moved to Tucson in December 1995. While Stuart worked for the federation, Nancy started Zuzi! Dance Company.
Nancy said that a mutual friend introduced her to Stuart on a Saturday before Mother’s Day. A year later, on Father’s Day weekend, they were married.
“From the first day of knowing Stu, he has held high his value of family, our Jewish faith tradition and the commitment to family and community,” she said. “Together we have felt a completion and wholeness as we formed this new family and braved the adventure of loving, caring, nurturing and, frankly, surviving the raucous dinner tables, vacations in Flagstaff and the daily routines of family life.”
Stuart’s approach to his job isn’t unlike his parenting style.
“I’ve tried to foster a sense of collaboration, partnership, inclusion and celebrate the diversity in our community,” he said.
He noted that his father was an inspiration for him, especially when it came to community work. “He modeled this strong commitment to making this world a better place.”
He recalled his dad running for the school board in the ’50s after it banned a social science book. As a 5-year-old, Stuart handed out cards for his dad’s campaign. His dad won, eventually became president of the board and later a judge.
One of the couple’s sons, Eric Mellan, is a Tucson property and casualty insurance agent for Capital West Insurance.
“I lost my birth mom when I was 5 years old,” said the 34-year-old. “He remarried, and I gained three stepsiblings. He’s always been so supportive of all of us, he’s always treated us the same way.”
When Eric heard about Stuart’s Father of the Year honor from the Father’s Day Council Tucson, he wasn’t surprised.
“I think he deserves it,” said Eric, who graduated with a degree in business management from Arizona State University. “He spends so much of his time giving to people in need. It’s amazing he has as much time as he does to give to his five kids.”
Eric and his dad play in a jazz band, Birks Works, a couple of times a month at Hacienda Del Sol Guest Ranch Resort. Eric plays guitar, while Stuart plays the keyboard.
Besides Eric, two other Mellan children still live in Tucson, one as a nanny and one as a doctor at Banner – University Medical Center. Another child works as a teacher in Spokane, Washington, and the fifth is in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles.
Stuart, 65, described early family life in the Mellan household.
“They had all lost a parent,” he said. “They got along in a chaotic kind of way. We were in survival mode there’s a whole lot of dynamics with grief.”
As a result, Mellan admitted that he and his wife tended to be a little overprotective, and it was “more challenging for us to be firm.”
“The hardest thing for me is to let go,” he said. “It’s a challenge to step back. I tend to be an advice-giver.”
Eric described his family life as “weird as all families are – it’s great.”
“I love that about our family; it’s quirky,” he said. “Our get-togethers are really interesting.”
Mellan said that he and Nancy tried to instill strong values in their children.
“In Judaism, there’s a quote: ‘Kindness is the highest wisdom,’ ” he said. “My favorite part is seeing them being successful in life. We feel really blessed. Our kids all grew up to be very good people.”
Another favorite family role for Mellan is that of grandparent. He and Nancy have two grandchildren, ages 7 and 10.
Nancy agreed, noting that despite her husband’s dedication to his work in the community, he “has somehow managed to be completely present for dinners, school plays, doctor appointments, music lessons, teenage crisis and joyful landmarks of each unique child.”
“Stu has actively contributed to ‘Tikkun Olam,’ the healing of the world, through his work at the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona in support of those in need and by parenting five exceptional children into adulthood where they, too, will bring caring and healing hearts into our community,” she said. “Stu’s values and achievements have enhanced the meaning of fatherhood.”