Memorial bench commemorates Holocaust survivor

Howard Melton helped students through trauma
Ozaukee Press staff

Northern Ozaukee School District students are paying homage to Holocaust survivor Howard Melton, who shared his story with students until his death last August.

Melton visited classes at Ozaukee High School and Ozaukee Elementary School for a decade through the Holocaust Education Resource Center.

History teacher Lindsay McBride said Melton, who talked to classes at the high school and elementary school for more than a decade, offered a first-person perspective to curriculum and spread a message of resilience and hope in the face of trauma.

McBride said Melton taught students with trauma of their own that life is a gift and everyday is meant to be enjoyed.

“Kids were transformed after meeting him,” McBride said.

To honor Melton, students Mason Pantle and Brice Schueller built a bench with the help of technology education instructor James Peter.

“He had such a positive impact on our students that he deserved to be remembered,” Peter said.

The bench, displayed at the middle school, has Melton’s signature phrase, “Life is a gift,” printed on it in English and Hebrew.

Also on the bench is a plaque engraved in the high school Fab Lab that depicts Melton and a thank you message from students.

During a recent ceremony unveiling the bench, students placed pebbles on it, a Jewish practice that symbolizes remembrance and respect for the deceased.

A native of Lithuania who was born in 1931, Melton was 10 years old when World War II began. He, his mother and two sisters were forced into a ghetto before being sent to a labor camp in Latvia to help build an airport.

In 1943, Melton’s youngest sister was sent to Auschwitz, where she was killed two years later. His mother and older sister were both killed in the Stutthof concentration camp east of Danzig.

Melton was sent to the Dachau concentration camp. In 1945, he was forced to march for 10 days before being rescued by American troops, who gave the 14-year-old hamburgers and chocolate. He weighed only 55 pounds at the time.

Both Melton and his father survived the war.

Melton moved to New York City in 1949, but later moved to Milwaukee to be near his friend, Albert Beder. In 1950, he joined the Air Force.

Ozaukee High School special education teacher Beth Czar said Melton was eager to share his story with students.

“He was just so willing to come,” she said. “He loved the connections.”

She added that the impact he made on students struggling with their own trauma was profound, noting he encouraged them to move on in a positive way.



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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