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Chester County Press

Editorial: The forever imprint of Dennis Melton

05/11/2021 03:55PM ● By Richard Gaw

On February 9, 1964, much in the very same way 73 million other Americans did that Sunday evening, 16-year-old twin brothers Dennis and Dale Melton gathered before the family television to watch the Ed Sullivan Show.

There was nothing extraordinary about the particular episode, other than the fact that it marked the live television debut of a group of four mop-topped young men from the ragged streets of Liverpool, who found themselves suddenly thrust into the consciousness of a country that had just been shaken to the core by the death of their beloved President three months before.

The groundswell of attention given to these young men by a country still in mourning was all they needed, and with two guitars, a bass and a set of drums, they flew a Pan Am flight across the Atlantic Ocean, landed just outside of New York City, and set about that task of making our country smile again.

None of these young men the Melton brothers were about to see came from sterling musical pedigree. None were born into wealth or at the time had attained any of it, but there they were, ripping into “All My Loving” with a confidence that defied their youth and seemed to reach through the screen and tell every American kid with huge dreams watching at home that there is nothing they are not capable of.

As the Beatles left their instruments to shake Sullivan’s hand and playfully acknowledge the wails of the young girls who were lucky enough to be there at the theater on 50th Street in Manhattan, Dennis and Dale Melton looked at each other and said, “That’s what we’re going to do.”

For Dennis Melton, who died on May 5 at the age of 73, dreaming was as essential as breathing, and he spent his life in the company of those for whom lofty imagination is essential to life: musicians, community leaders, town planners, architects and those dedicated to the belief that we are better together than we are apart.

How is the measure of a human life defined more clearly than by the forever imprints they leave behind when they leave us? Dennis Melton’s work as an architect – most of it coming out of his cozy row home office on Broad Street in Kennett Square -- gave us the Anson B. Nixon Park Performance Pavilion, the Country Butcher, Philter Coffee, the restoration of the Chalfonte House, and, perhaps most grand of all, the new Kennett Library & Resource Center that is scheduled to begin construction this summer and be completed at the end of 2022.

The forever imprint of Dennis Melton also made a beautiful sound, seen in recordings and live performances, in collaboration with his brother Dale and far too many other singers and songwriters and strummers and drummers to possibly fit on a single stage. The forever imprint of his music went far beyond his singing and his guitar; it was seen in his ingenuity to introduce live music to Kennett Square by becoming one of the founders of The Kennett Flash, as well as the Summer Park Concert Series at Anson B. Nixon Park.

Perhaps nowhere was the forever imprint of Dennis Melton felt more than at the annual MLK Community Day celebration of the life and mission of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., where he was a founding member of the MLK Community. It was at this event that the community saw the side of Dennis Melton that lay behind the quick and ready smile and the extended hand of friendship – the side of him that spoke of his humble servitude for his brothers and sisters who did not share the color of his skin.

On February 9, 1964, Dennis Melton sat frozen before a television screen and saw his future. It was a forever imprint of a moment in history and one that inspired Melton to live out his life in a dream sequence of accomplishment, collaboration and decency. He stared deep at the blank pages of his profession and filled them with the most breathtaking use of space. He made music when before there was empty noise and sweetened the air, and he imagined, through the simple act of kindness, how we as a community can be become the best versions of ourselves.

Dreamers are, by their very nature, the first ones in. They are the first stakeholders to what is at first nothingness, and through the sheer constancy of their imagination, turn nothingness into possibility and convince others to join them.

We are a better community because of Dennis Melton, and now it is our turn to follow what he did, and leave the forever imprints of our most gracious selves.