Mel Simmons exuded life. She brought it into every room she ever entered, every life she ever touched. Mel loved people and took them as they were, on their terms. People responded to her in a way that we have never known in anyone else. She listened to them, cared about what they had to say and how they felt, and they knew it. Mel's friendships transcended time, geography, age and education. She had a common touch that allowed people trust and unconditional love - that allowed them hope. Mel had a special place for every person, and we wonder how she had so much room. People who knew her speak of her as loving mother, an upbeat positive force, a woman who loved life, who cared about people, a loyal person, a beautiful person, a fierce competitor and a real friend.

Mels's parents instilled in their children a lifelong sense of family. These children learned that the greatest joy in life was giving to others. Her loyalty and love for her brothers and sisters was absolute. They meant so much to her, as well as all her beloved nieces and nephews.

Mel delighted in her family but her greatest joys were her son Mark and daughter Jessica. They were the highest priority in her life and they knew it. She wished that they could stay young forever. At the same time, she enjoyed the excitement of watching them become caring, faith-filled and responsible adults.

She was a flight attendant for thirty eight years: first with Northeast Air Lines then with Delta Air Lines for the majority of her career. Not only was she cherished by her colleagues, but she was enjoyed so much that frequent flyers would ask for her by name. She loved her fellow flight attendants at Delta Air Lines and spoke often of the bond she shared with them - describing this bond as a love that no one could ever know.

Mel was a spiritual woman of legendary generosity and boundless energy. Humor was her trademark. She managed to turn every crisis into an opportunity. In 2000, Mel was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. At the time, she learned that the cancer had spread to 24 lymph nodes and her prognosis was not good. It was then that she began a five year journey that would test her to the core.

At the time, she found it necessary to take a year off from flying while she dealt with this ordeal. Mel believed that she was just an ordinary woman living under extraordinary circumstances. To those who knew her, she was an extraordinary woman who faced this challenge with dignity and quiet grace. When Mel returned to work in 2001, her friends nominated her to carry the Olympic torch. In her own words, this is how she described the experience.

"In this time of turmoil and sadness, I would like to share with you some joy and excitement. I have just been informed that I have been selected from my Delta peers to be a torchbearer in the Salt Lake City Olympic Games in 2002. Starting December 4th in Atlanta and ending February 8, 2002 in Salt Lake City, the Olympic Flame will travel throughout the US for 65 exhilarating days, covering more than 13,500 miles. It is with great humility and pride that I accept this honor to represent my company and my country and to be a small part of the historic the moment I carry the flame, I am the only person in the world with that privilege. I am so honored and grateful and while I carry the flame... I will do so to honor each and every American who lost their lives on September 11, and I know they will shine down on each and everyone of us, every step of every mile until the flame is lit in Salt Lake City. They will continue to do so for many more years to come. I thank you for allowing me to share this news with you and know I have your continued love and support, as you have mine. Love, Mel".

When you became a "Friend of Mel", you became a friend for life. She considered you not only friends but an extended part of the family. This was also true of the doctors, nurses and many patients she came to know while receiving treatment at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center. Sadly, Mel lost her battle almost five years to the day she was diagnosed. But not before leaving her mark on every person who had the good fortune to cross her path.

Mel taught us how to live, how to laugh and how to love. That was her legacy - and that was our gift.  
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