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  Mello, Henry J.
NameHenry J. Mello
Watsonville, California , United States
Born March 27, 1924
DiedSeptember 04, 2004 (80 years)
ContributorBarack O-blame-a
Last ModifedRBH
Feb 02, 2017 02:57am
InfoHenry John Mello was born in Watsonville, California on March 27, 1924. The son of immigrant Portuguese parents, he attended Watsonville High School and Hartnell College in Salinas. Senator Mello was very proud of his Portuguese heritage.

In the 1940s, Senator Mello went into the family apple business and helped start the Mello Packing Company and later other businesses. He also became involved in local politics and non-profit charitable groups.

His first sojourn into public service was as a member of the California Agricultural Advisory Board and he also served on several other boards and commissions.

Senator Mello’s political career expanded when he was elected to the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors in 1966. In 1976, he was elected to the State Assembly’s 28th district and served two terms. Although he’d always had respect and concern for seniors and their issues, Senator Mello’s long-term involvement began when he was appointed Chairman of the newly created Assembly Standing Committee on Aging by then Assembly Speaker Leo McCarthy. During that time, he also became an influential member of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee.

In 1980, he was elected to represent the 17th State Senate district (later became the 15th Senate district) and quickly rose to leadership positions by his appointment to the powerful Senate Rules Committee. He was then elected as Majority Whip and later as Majority Leader. His legislative track record is legendary, often getting more legislation signed into law than any other senator. He successfully authored over 456 bills among which were 120 bills focusing on senior issues.

One of Senator Mello’s proudest achievements was the creation of the California Senior Legislature (CSL). He was equally proud of his authorship of programs dealing with Alzheimer’s, including respite care, adult day health care and other senior programs focusing on changes in laws affecting conservatorship, elder abuse and funding for senior meals. Senator Mello was the coauthor of major nursing home reform legislation in the mid-1980s. The omnibus bill was the result of a statewide campaign led by Lt. Governor McCarthy and dozens of senior, healthcare and patients’ rights advocates. The CSL was among the principal supporters of the legislative package which was one of its top priorities at the time. Senator Mello was a staunch supporter of the CSL and a frequent participant in the annual sessions. He greatly enjoyed the camaraderie of his CSL friends.

There was also the personal side of Henry Mello: a loving family man, good friend, jazz musician. He was an arts lover and tireless advocate who was also deeply involved in the creation and upkeep of the California Arts Council. He played the piano and accordion. Henry and Helen Mello attended the Monterey jazz and blues festivals for scores of years. His love and support for the arts was recognized when Watsonville High School honored "one of their own" by naming the newly rebuilt auditorium the "Henry J. Mello Center for the Performing Arts." A few years ago, he performed at an event on behalf of the Pajaro Valley Performing Arts Association with the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra.

Henry Mello liked being asked to perform with his trio, which included the late Senator Ralph Dills on saxophone and good friend Polly Gardner, Senator Dills’ executive assistant, on the drums. The trio played at many CSL functions and often performed for the annual senior rallies at the Capitol. We will miss the Senator’s friendship and bright smile, but we will always hear his music.


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