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  1. John Melfi was my nephew and he was my friend. He was amazing in ways that words are grossly inadequate to describe. He has been deeply missed and will be missed always. It’s not enough but it is something that we are left with sweet memories. And we are left with his written words.

    John was reflexively optimistic and up-beat. He exuded a contagious cheerfulness and good-humor that brought joy to those around him. Sometimes, thinking of John, I am reminded of the Yeats poem “The Fisherman” in which the poet, being out of sorts with the daily strife of the city and the sorts of people he encounters there, conjures up a good and decent man, an ideal man, “climbing up to a place / Where stone is dark under froth, / And the down-turn of his wrist / When the flies drop in the stream.” Yeats’ ideal man, perhaps tellingly, is a fly fisherman.

    Over the years, especially when we happened to be together in Michigan or California or elsewhere, I was privileged to have lively discussions with John on our favorite writers, several of whom we had in common. When he was a student at Brown he managed to spend a period abroad at Trinity College in Dublin and quickly immersed himself into Irish literature, which became a shared interest. I was fortunate to be able to visit with him while he was at Trinity.

    John was remarkably well-read and was himself a writer of distinction, having a wonderful way with words. I loved reading his work, for example the many fine book reviews in MidCurrent magazine. I recall a riveting beautifully written very short story of his about how, when fishing in the Bahamas, he witnessed a three foot barracuda, with a bonefish clasped crosswise in its jaws, outmaneuvering a determined lemon shark in hot pursuit. “Till then I’d never felt sorry for a shark but that lemon got my sympathy.”

    In early May 2015 John honored me greatly by taking the substantial effort to come out from Brooklyn to JFK Airport where I had a several hour layover en route to Europe. We talked easily of recent Atlantic and New York Review articles and of summer plans, and the hours went quickly by. It was so good to see him. But it was to be for the last time. In early July as he was preparing to leave for a remote fishing lodge to which he’d been invited in the Barren Lands of Nunavut in sub-arctic Canada, he wrote “I hope to be able to regale you with stories and photos from the Barren Lands.” It was my last message from him. What I wouldn’t have given to have been so regaled.

  2. This is not so much a reply as it is an additional affirmation of John and his wonderful contribution to life while he was here. I met John when he played water polo with my son, John, at University High School. He was a good athlete and, I discovered, an avid fly fisherman. At the end of the water polo season he thoughtfully gave me a video of “A River Runs Through It”. I have watched it many times, although I believe technology has gone beyond my ability to play my VHS copy. I now have to stream it. I like to think I had some influence on how John lived his life, but in reality I wish I could have followed in John’s footsteps to Oregon and his access to the outdoors. I read his book reviews and found them extremely thoughtful and well written. His love of salt water fly fishing led him to “Tail”. I received some hard copies of the Jan/Feb. 2016 issue which contained a wonderful In Memoriam to John. I took a copy to Christmas Island last January and left it at the hotel bar with a note inside asking all fly fishermen who took the time to read it to think of John when they caught their next bonefish or GT. I think of him frequently when I am on the river. He was truly a gentleman. Gary Spencer
    (To the Administrator: I hit the wrong button on the Image selection; please delete. Thanks)

  3. Losing John
    There are events in our lives that take months of planning and organizing.
    When the BIG day arrives, the anticipation heightens the enjoyment of the events.
    Weddings, births and the day each summer when you get “to the lake” and Cozy Point are like that.

    Then, there are events in our lives for which we subconsciously prepare.
    When that day comes, there is sadness, but acceptance comes stepping close behind it.
    Deaths of elderly family members are like that.

    Then, there are events for which you have no preparation.
    They come out of nowhere.
    Tragic events like this.
    John dying.

    The loss and pain are like a double-edged sword driven deep into your heart
    Taking your breath and appetite away and making you question your core beliefs in this world.

    At times like this, we all need to find comfort.

    I find comfort in the actions of the stranger who helped John when he fell in the crosswalk and called 911.
    I find comfort knowing John’s last act was to reach out for Asia.
    I find comfort knowing John suffered little at the end of his life.
    I find comfort knowing John made an unexpected stop in Orange County in September to see his parents and brother, Michael two months before he died.
    I find comfort knowing in John’s life he stretched…
    his body playing water polo in high school,
    his mind obtaining degrees at Brown and the University of Oregon.
    I find comfort knowing John studied at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland.
    When I visited the campus, I tried to picture my red-headed cousin walking to classes along the cobbled courtyards.
    I find comfort knowing John traveled to many places near and far to fulfill his passion for fishing and to places with the woman for whom he was passionate.
    I find comfort in the snapshots in my mind of John fishing
    -with Tom, my brother, for hours and hours.
    -with Asia to the perch beds, where she out caught him.
    -with Ellie, his niece and Asia, again, to the perch beds, where again, I think Asia out caught him. Asia is perhaps a fish magnet.
    -off the rocks of Cozy with all of us watching.
    -and when he grabbed his fishing gear and went out solo.
    I see him in my mind’s eye motoring down Clam Lake past Stonewood in his metal boat.
    I find comfort knowing John enjoyed and understood the nature that surrounded him when fishing.
    I find comfort in hearing in my head, John’s laugh or him saying “Rrrigghhtt.”

    Mostly, I find comfort in seeing John’s smile when I think of him.
    He smiled at everything.
    Disarming even my mom, Cottie.
    That was his secret in life—SMILE.
    And it is that smile I will miss the most.

    Trish Volle Narwold
    John’s oldest but not wisest cousin

  4. Just a quick note regarding John. We grew up together in Irvine, CA. We lived near each other and went to school together Kindergarten through high school. We graduated and both moved on to colleges far from each other. My family subsequently moved away from Irvine. In short, I never saw John again. Our timing and moves had missed the initial period where cell phones / emails / and social media would have more easily maintained a link. In all these years I had never lost thought of John. I’d often wondered where he lived and what is life had become. As was typical, a few months ago I Google searched him and found this terrible news. My early childhood through adolescent memories of John are consistent. He was a friend to all and had no adversaries. He laughed a lot and had a ready smile. He was intelligent. He was gentle and honest. He was always decent. Never looking for attention, easily quick to give it. I am so very sorry for you his close friends and family for your loss. It is heartwarming to have read all these stories of John and see the happy life his had become. May he rest in peace. Dave Clark

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