Ralph Prestat Melville | AspenTimes.com
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Ralph Prestat Melville

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Ralph Prestat Melville, born 8/10/1925 in Boston, MA passed on 2/15/2016 at home, surrounded by loving family in Aspen, CO. He was born to William Homer Melville and Marie Eugenie Prestat and raised in Braintree, MA. He graduated from Braintree High in June 1943 and immediately enlisted in the U.S. Navy. Intent on becoming a pilot he was chosen for a new program. Soon after arriving at Dartmouth College for the training, the program was shut down and he was reassigned as a radio technician. He eventually received orders to sail, via the Philippines, to China and relieve sailors due to come home.

After the war ended Ralph returned to Dartmouth where he got the skiing bug. He received a degree in physics and graduated during the winter of 1949, at which time someone suggested that he try Pinkham Notch, NH. He worked as a hut master caring for the needs of skiers the rest of the winter. He found his passion there, not in the field of physics, but as a ski lodge owner and operator. Brooks Dodge had just come back from racing at the 1950 FIS competition in Aspen and suggested that Ralph take a look there.

Ralph wintered in Aspen in 1951 and worked for both Walt Matthew at Matthew’s Drug and Howard Awrey at the Sundeck. Despite the superior weather and skiing, local hotel owners complained that there were too many beds and not enough skiers. Concluding that the town was overbuilt and apparently not growing, he returned to Massachusetts at the end of that season.

While home in Massachusetts Ralph continued to develop his skills in construction, and having held onto the dream, began to save money for his ski lodge.

In 1953 he returned to Aspen to ski with friends, but a broken ankle forced him from the slopes early in the trip. Ralph used this unexpected idle time to look closer at the town, and felt it now had more skiers than beds and stronger potential. He spent a few days looking at land with local real estate agent Jim Moore and purchased two lots at the corner of Mill and Durant streets in Aspen for $2,000. Vacation over, he and his friends returned to Boston.

In August of 1954, Ralph returned to Aspen with Ed McDonough and began to build the Mountain Chalet. Without doors and with a single shared bathroom, only three of the nine rooms were completed by Christmas 1954. Ralph rented them all at $2.75 per night.

In June 1956, Ralph met Marian Glee Headley of Pittsburgh, PA; who, by way of Mont Tremblant, arrived to ski bum for the winter and was talked into staying for the summer. After a whirlwind courtship, Ralph proposed, Marian said “yes”, and she returned to Pittsburgh to plan their August wedding.

Less than two weeks before the wedding Ralph climbed the Maroon Bells with Mary Lou Hayden and Loren Jenkins. On the descent Ralph fell and slid hundreds of feet down the face breaking his right leg, several ribs, left arm, and jaw. While Jenkins went for help, Hayden had to completely descend and climb back up to Ralph, who had come to a stop at the top of a cliff and spent the night. The next morning local rescue volunteers carried him off the mountain. He made it to the wedding on time.

Memberships to local organizations include Charter Member Aspen Rotary, Aspen School Board, Director of First National Bank, Aspen City Council (fulfilled a vacated term), Church Elder of First Baptist Church (now Crossroads), Aspen Mountain Rescue co-founder. He started and participated in numerous Bible studies and placed Bibles in thousands of hotel drawers through Gideons International.

Ralph and Marian, along with a group of investors, built the Mountain Chalet Snowmass as part of the village and ski area development in 1967.

They involved themselves in a variety of entrepreneurial ventures ranging from the Mark Twain apartment buildings in Denver, to fruit orchards in Hotchkiss, but the Mountain Chalet in Aspen remained their most successful and consistent effort.

He is survived by his wife Marian Glee (nee Headley) of Aspen; children Julie Melville (Denver, CO), Frank and Mary Melville (Parker, CO), Nancy and Norman Bacheldor (Basalt, CO), Susan and Bob Warren (Aspen), Karen and David Thacker (Erie, CO), and Craig Melville (Aspen); foster daughters Riley Pond (Denver), Kaiulani (Ginter) and Adam Paulus (MN); grandchildren Michael and Ashley Inman (Orcas Island, WA), Kari (Bacheldor) and Rederiche Carlson (Colorado Springs, CO), Rachael Inman and Jason Goodrich (Brooklyn, NY), Jordan Bacheldor and Tillie Hooker (Aspen), Hannah (Bacheldor) and Francisco Carballo (Basalt), Sarah Melville (Parker), Anna Battista (Erie), Grace Battista (Erie), Natalie Melville (Aspen), Elizabeth Melville (Aspen), Stephen Melville (Parker), Rebekah Inman (Denver), Paul Battista (Erie), Henry Melville (Aspen); Hailey Thelen (OR), and Maggie Thelen (MN); great-grandchildren Timothy and Hannah Inman, Nevaeh and Asher Carballo, and Kinley Carlson; sister Ann Huntly (East Bridgewater, MA); nieces and nephews Dana and Kass Huntly, Donna and John Baker, Dianne Erickson, and Darryl Huntly.

A memorial service will be held at Crossroads Church 726 West Francis St, Aspen CO on March 6, 2016 at 3:33pm.


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