Mel Wade was a regular fixture at Homestead, Grafton and Brown Deer athletic events over the last several years. He was watching his grandchildren play high school sports. Mel died Tuesday, Jan. 14, leaving his wife of 58 years, Bette; and three sons, Dave (56, Mequon), Bruce (53, Brown Deer) and Dan (52, Grafton).
Mel Wade had quite a background in community service and sports himself. He was a community leader in recreation program development for the Greater Milwaukee Park and Recreation Association, the Senior Olympics and the Wisconsin Tennis Association. Wade was the director of recreation and adult education at Nicolet High School for 34 years, starting one year after Nicolet opened in 1956. His wife, Bette, started at Nicolet in its inaugural school year as the first English teacher. He developed the Nicolet Tennis Club, which helped produce numerous state champion tennis players at the high school and fueled the all-time consecutive state championship record for high school tennis.
Wade was a 13-time state champion in Senior Olympics tennis and a Hall of Fame inductee. He was a regular soloist at weddings, church services and funerals as well as singing the national anthem at Bucks games and the Senior Olympics. He was a member of the Joy Singers Choir that regularly entertained at nursing homes and events including Newscastle Place in Mequon. He built his own cottage and boats. His boat was named the “Well Made” by Mel Wade.
He was a member of the Wisconsin Tennis Association and United States Tennis Association, receiving the Bill Letwin Award (“achievement, dedication or service by a Wisconsin tennis player, coach or professional-2002) and the WTA Award (Tennis Leadership and Volunteerism-1994).
Wade also created such groundbreaking activities in the 1960s and ’70s as the over-30 basketball league, girls softball league (before Title IX), water ballet, the Community All-Star Baseball League (Mequon, Cedarburg, Brown Deer, Glendale, Fox Point) and school dances let by the Youth Council, which he organized. He helped design and build the Nicolet Knightskeller that opened in 1969 and acted as a gathering place and community center as well as dance hall for the Nicolet Joint School District.
Wade was a past president of the Greater Milwaukee Park and Recreation Association, leading committees of the Wisconsin Park and Recreation Association, and the National Park and Recreation Association frequently and serving as president. He received the Wisconsin Park and Recreation Association Professional Award of Merit.
His son, Dan, is Grafton’s varsity hockey coach and his son, Dave, is a longtime football, basketball and baseball coach and one of the founders of B.O.S.S. Baseball Academy. Dave and Dan have also won numerous state and two national championships in men’s softball with Funjet Vacations Softball Club.
Son Bruce plays in the Ozaukee over-30 soccer league and is also a longtime soccer coach. Mel had watched his grandson Matt’s Homestead junior varsity basketball game just a day prior to his death.
Wade watched his grandchildren at almost every game – Jeff Wade (Grafton hockey and baseball); Ally Wade (Lakeshore Dance and Nutcracker performance); Eric and Matt Wade (Homestead football, basketball, track and baseball); and Paul, Stephen, and Gina Wade (Brown Deer soccer, tennis, and swimming).
He was able to see Ally win Triple S National Championship honors in the solo dance division, Jeff become a leading scorer in WIAA hockey, Eric win a state championship in football and be named all-conference running back, Matt become a four sport athlete, Gina become the first Brown Deer girl to advance to the sectionals in WIAA tennis, and Paul and Stephen lead their teams in soccer and swimming.
Mueller Funeral Home & Crematory has assisted the family.