Melvin "Mel" Struthers Jr.
Melvin "Mel" Struthers Jr. passed away Jan. 4, 2021, peacefully at home. He was born in 1928 in Spirit Lake, Iowa, to Melvin Struthers and Vivian (Eastman) Struthers. Lawyer, husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, tennis player, sailor, swimmer and friend, Mel
was a lifelong learner who loved music, reading, education, travel and people.
After graduating from high school in his native Spirit Lake, Iowa, Mel answered a magazine ad, and, after receiving an acceptance telegram from J. Edgar Hoover, took the train to Washington, D.C., in 1949 to work for the FBI. While in D.C., he earned his associate's, baccalaureate and Juris Doctor degrees from George Washington University.
During the Korean War years of 1950-52, he served in the United States Army in Germany and when on leave, learned to ski on the slopes of the Matterhorn in Switzerland, and scramble among the ruins of the Colosseum in Rome, igniting his passion for travel and adventure.
After leaving subsequent government positions, including a stint as investigator for the Small Business Administration, Mel and Ann (Mohr), who became his wife and life-long adventurer and companion in 1952, returned to their Midwest roots in 1960 and settled in Cedar Rapids, where he helped established the First Small Business Loan Co. in Eastern Iowa, and then became the in-house counsel for a consortium of financial institutions.
A longtime and devoted member of St. Paul's United Methodist Church and the Come Disciples Sunday school class, he dedicated himself to leadership positions that allowed him to serve others selflessly.
When his wife, Ann, became a Fulbright Scholar in 1996 with a two-year posting to Syria at the University of Aleppo, Mel happily embraced his role as diplomat without portfolio, and became widely known in Syria as "Uncle Sam" because of his stature and white hair. The director of the English Language Institute at the University also invited Mel to lecture there from time to time. He volunteered at the ICARDA INTERNATIONAL School, where he taught tennis and became the substitute teacher for history and was the advisor to the international quiz team. Beloved by Syrian students and friends, he volunteered for English tutoring and chaperoning of young couples who were unable to socialize without acceptable guardians in that conservative society. He was a friendly, optimistic, welcoming person, with a great sense of humor. Many adventures ensued including trips to Turkey, Jordan, and historic Palmyra, the 14 Crusader castles in Syria, Lebanon, and an entire month spent touring India. Later, he also enjoyed trips to England, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Vienna, Athens and other locations to visit new international friends who were scattered in many countries.
In 2003, he and Ann set out again for another Fulbright appointment to Colombo, Sri Lanka, where he again developed many friends among the local population and especially with the American junior Fulbrighters. In Sri Lanka where the subtropical climate provided a marked departure from the arid Middle East, he became an enthusiastic member of the Otters Swimming Club.
Mel loved the more than 40 years of bi-annual family reunions at the Y Camp in Estes Park, Colo., where he was an enthusiastic hiker, and the summers spent at the family cottage at Sprit Lake, where he fished, sailed, and found a tennis group and many friends to talk to. There he had great fun teaching his children and grandchildren to fish and sail.
Mel is survived by his wife of 68 years, Dr. Ann Struthers; sister, Janice; children, John, Georgia (Tom Warmath) Charity and Mary Dittmer; five grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; and many nieces and nephews.
A supporter of many charitable causes, Mel loved Coe College, St. Paul's Methodist Church, the Cedar Rapids Public Library and the Cedar Rapids YMCA. Contributions in Mel's memory may be made to any of the aforementioned institutions or the charity of your choice.