Captains and colleagues remember Norm Mello, travel lift operator at Lauderdale Marine Center (LMC) in Ft. Lauderdale who died in a motorcycle accident involving a wrong-way driver on July 19 in South Florida.
A memorial photo board, cards and flowers are on display in the office behind the desks of LMC office staff Sara Allenger and Cortney Zdanowicz.
“We’re getting e-mails and calls from captains all around the world,” Allenger said of messages from Turkey, Greece, Spain, the Caribbean and California.
“People that never post on Facebook are posting in response to Norm’s death,” Allenger said.
“He was our go-to-guy. He did everything you asked him,” Zdanowicz said.
Mr. Mello, 42, died in crash on I-95 as he was riding southbound on his motorcycle, with a helmet on, to meet fellow motorcyclists in Miami, according to The Sun-Sentinel. He was driving behind a Dodge Ram that swerved to avoid a northbound, 20 year-old driver in an Acura TL. After the truck swerved, Mr. Mello had a head-on collision with the Acura. Mr. Mello was pronounced dead at the scene.
Capt. Mark Schwegman first met Mello in 2004 when the 106-foot M/Y Serenity was pulled for yard work.
“I remember the first time I was hauled at LMC and Norm was there, the last time I was hauled he was there,” Schwegman posted on Facebook.
Mr. Mello worked with Schwegman throughout the decade, a few times on the 90-foot M/Y Panache and then every year for the last six years on the 100-foot M/Y La Dolce Vita.
“Condolences to his family and all at LMC. [He’s] a great guy and he is going to be missed,” Schwegman posted.
“Here’s to a stand out guy in an industry that could use a million more Norm Mellos,” Capt. Brendon Pomeroy posted on Facebook. “You will be greatly missed and never forgotten.”
“He was a gem,” Pomeroy said in an e-mail.
“He was a strong character, very important to the operations here at LMC,” Dockmaster John Terrill said. “Captains around the world are appreciative of what he did for them as operator of the 300 ton lift.”
Mr. Mello was always careful and appreciated the big responsibility of operating the lift, Terrill said.
“Watching him work was interesting, like watching a captain maneuver a big yacht in a tight spot,” Terrill said.
“He was part of the family here,” LMC Operations Manager Jim Parks said.
Mr. Mello had been employed at LMC since 2002 and in an effort to do better at his job, he asked for help to communicate with staff and customers, Park said. So, LMC enrolled him in a Dale Carnegie course and some of the staff attended Mello’s graduation from the course.
“He said it was rewarding and it changed him. He could deal with people differently,” Parks said. “Norm had been clean and sober for 12 years, he was very reliable.”
“His early death makes no sense,” Parks said.
Security officer Max Hogu took a moment from monitoring the entrance gate at LMC to remember Mr. Mello.
“He’d call me ‘Security Max’ on the radio,” Hogu said. “Now I think of him 20 times a day. We had a lot of communication.”
“I’ve known Norm since 2001. It’s not right not being able to hear him now,” Hogu said.
Mello picked up the biggest boats, made the captains happy and he never had an accident, Hogu said. He said Mello spent time a lot of time inspecting the lifts and checking straps. And Mello really loved his dog, boats, his Mustang, his pick-up and motorcycles, Hogu said.
“And he loved tattoos. I would guess he had maybe four or five in memory, dedicated to his friends,” Hogu said.
Now, friends are getting tattoos in memory of Mello.
Dorie Cox is associate editor of The Triton. Comments on this story are welcome at email@example.com.
For more visit:
Facebook: In loving memory of Norman V. Mello
Memorial scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 10 from 2-6 p.m. at Roundup Country Western Club, 9020 West State Road 84, Davie, FL 33324
(SW Corner of Pine Island Road & I-595) Pine Island plaza, +1 954-423-1990.
A memorial motorcycle ride from Tower Shops in Davie to Ft. Lauderdale Beach is scheduled for Friday night, July 25.