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Automotive Innovator and Melodic Music Connoisseur

By Edward Perez

Robert Clayton Mellin, a former resident of Centerville, Ohio, passed away on May 8, 2017, at the age of 87. Mellin was a native of Battle Creek, Michigan, but was residing 80 miles away in Howell, Michigan. He is survived by brother Grover Mellin and sister Patricia Hile.

Throughout his life, Mellin was fond of photography, automobiles, and melodic music and built substantial collections of materials pertaining to these interests.

In his youth, Mellin collected pictures of vehicle models along with information about their mechanical components. Mellin eventually converted his passion for automobiles into a 33-year engineering career at General Motors following his studies at Purdue University and Wayne State University. During his time at GM, Mellin was awarded many patents, including one for his design of an electronic cooling fan for radiators.

After he retired, Mellin took on an extensive project to create and present programs on popular melodic music composers to retirement communities in the Dayton area. This resulted in a collection of 10,000 pieces of sheet music highlighting composers of the 20th century.

Mellin invested both time and money in this project. In a preface to his programs collection, he wrote that he needed tens of thousands of dollars to acquire the material he needed, and he mortgaged his house in order to do so.

Mellin’s programs consisted of songs he rated based on his personal criteria.

“I started rating my recordings from A-plus on down based on how pleasing the melody of the song was and how well the recording artist performed it,” Mellin wrote.

Mellin wanted to present only the most soothing and pleasing programs to his audiences and decided to only feature songs with a rating of A-minus and above.

“After I rated over 20,000 recordings," he wrote, "I had almost 2,500 songs with at least one recording rated A-minus or better ... and over 800 songs rated A-plus.”

Mellin then further reviewed the A-plus songs to determine the best fits for his programs and rated the final contenders as A-plus-plus, narrowing the list to 266. All in all, Mellin invested nine years into this project before he began presenting them.

Mellin’s music and programs collection was given to the University of Dayton Archives and Special Collections. Follow my future blog posts as I delve into this collection and break down its most intriguing features.

- Edward Perez, a senior, is a student employee in the University Archives and Special Collections.

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