Melden B. Suggett, Jr.
1933 ~ 2023
Captain Melden ‘Mel’ Suggett, Jr., age 89, died February 12, 2023, after a long struggle with dementia. ‘Mel’ was born and raised in a rural setting near Woodland, California. His father, Mel Sr., was a rice grower working fields that would today be visible from the airport traffic area at Sacramento Airport.
Mel was a good student and an excellent athlete. His athletic skills at Woodland High School won Mel accolades at All State high school competitions and a scholarship to Olympic College in Bremerton, WA where he studied Forestry. Like many other future aviators, upon acquiring two years of college credits Mel applied for USAF Aviation Cadet pilot training. After preflight at Lackland AFB, TX Mel did well in Primary and Basic Flight Training. Completing the Aviation Cadet flight training, Mel was commissioned and rated as a USAF pilot. From Texas he traveled north to Tinker AFB, OK for C-124 Globemaster transition training. With transition behind him, Mel reported for operational assignment to the 62nd Troop Carrier Wing at McChord AFB. This began a long-time association with aviation centered in the Seattle/Tacoma area.
The 62nd Troop Carrier Wing had long supported the Army at Ft. Lewis, WA. In the mid-1950s the 62nd acquired an important role during the construction of DEW Line chain of radar stations installed north of the Arctic Circle extending 3,000 miles from the Bering Strait in the west to the eastern shore of Baffin Island. Many of these sites had airstrips barely describable as military airfields. The missions Mel flew to these extremely remote sites were hazardous and demanding.
When not supporting the construction of the Dew Line Radar Sites, Mel flew trans-Pacific military flights to bases in Asia. This resulted in great familiarity with Pacific navigation and communications long before being hired by Northwest Airlines.
Mel was hired by NWA on May 23, 1958. He received his initial training and qualification as a DC-3 & DC-4 copilot at MSP and then was assigned to the Spokane (GEG) Base. At GEG he mostly flew as copilot on the DC-4. When the GEG base closed, Mel transferred to Seattle where he continued checkouts and upgrades on the DC-6, DC-7 and then the initial jet qualifications on the Boeing 720/320.
Mel was married twice with both marriages ending in the death of his spouse. His first marriage to Barbara Thoemke was tragically brief, and the second marriage to Evelyn Knox lasted almost sixty years.
In 1962 Mel met the beautiful, refined and European born Evelyn Vivian Knox, a flight attendant for Western Airlines until laid off during a strike. She then worked for the Port of Seattle in the first-class lounge serving multiple airlines. Mel and Evie were married in Los Angeles, CA March 05, 1963. They welcomed their first child, Gregory Edward, in February 1966 and their second child, Leslie Anne, in May, 1969.
The official date of Mel’s retirement is August 01, 1993. He served NWA with distinction for 35 years, retiring as a Boeing 747 classic captain. In retirement Mel kept his hand in general aviation by usually owning a light aircraft.
Family life for Evie and Mel often involved family adventures with an international perspective on life events. This was a blessing born of Evie’s European roots and Mel’s extensive travels.
Mel and Evie owned a cabin on Lake Chelan that became a frequent get-away. It wasn’t just the attractions of the lake, but also served to satisfy Mel’s passion for hunting. Mel was introduced to bird hunting by his father to keep ducks out of the rice Fields at Woodland, CA. He remained an avid bird hunter for the rest of his life.
Mel is survived by his daughter Leslie Suggett, grandchildren Brigid (Suggett) Graf, Mary Elizabeth Suggett, Kathryn Suggett, Madison (Gorman) Elliott, and Sidney Suggett and his great-grandchildren Mary Henesey Suggett and Alana Graf. He was preceded in death by his wife Evelyn Suggett (12/28/22), his son Gregory E. Suggett, his parents Melden and Josephine, and his sisters and brothers: Patti Lou (Suggett) Latimer, Leona (Quist) Serrels, Peter Quist, and Robert Quist.
There is no doubt that Mel loved nature, history, flying, and above all his family and friends. Memories of him will be cherished by all.
It is widely acclaimed among NWA pilots that we were honored to share the cockpit with Mel Suggett.