By Liz Verley, Staff Writer
Mel Oelrich delivered mail for 31 years to rural Royalton residents. He retired in January and is using the extra time to write poetry and music.
Oelrich has lived in Royalton since 1951, when his parents moved their 10 children to the city.
“Throughout the years I had many jobs. When I was growing up I had lawn mowing jobs, a paper route and helped my dad,” said Oelrich. “We played a lot of baseball, too. Charlie Plantenberg kept a lot of us kids out of trouble. He was really dedicated to the kids in the community. Don Laubach who owned Don’s Cafe was really good to the kids too. We went to the state tournament in amateur baseball.”
He graduated from high school in 1965, and days later turned 18. “I left home that day and went to Duluth and signed onto a coal carrying ship. Made a couple of runs and decided that was not for me. I was too lonesome,” he said.
He worked at other jobs before attending college for a while and before joining the Army. He said, “I hate war but I accept it. I don’t like what it does to families. I never served in combat but I have seen the damage to my fellow soldiers. It’s hard at times. Their sacrifices keep us free. We should be proud of every soldier. They give so much and some give it all. They should be respected and honored for that.”
He served for two years. He said, “I have been so lucky and fortunate in my life.”
Eventually, Oelrich and his wife Sue purchased and ran Mel’s On Ten in Royalton.
Oelrich said, “I loved being in the bar business. I enjoyed the enjoyed all ages of the people that came in. Eddie Girtz was a joy. He would come in to the bar in the afternoon and play his fiddle. He taught me how to play the fiddle.” Oelrich is also self-taught on the guitar and plays the piano.
“I enjoyed the fundraisers, bands, sponsorships, the softball teams, but one day I knew it was time to sell,” he said.
“Song writing has been a passion of mine for many years. After listening to a Waylon Jennings album, I fell in love with country music. It tells a story,” Oelrich said.
In late March, Oelrich had the chance to attend a National Songwriters Association International (NSAI) spring training.
“I knew this would happen some time in my life,” said Oelrich.
At the training he sat through sessions presented by songwriters such as Brian White, who is known as a premier songwriter. White’s writing has earned him 13 number one songs.
Other writers he had the chance to interact with include Tony Colton, John Oates, Jen Foster, Marty Dodson, Chris Wallen and several others.
Wallen told those attending it was important to “learn from listening and to keep writing.” And that is what Oelrich plans to do.
“I will find myself driving down the road and an idea will come to me. I have to pull over and make notes. It is a lot of fun,” he said.
“The people in Nashville were great. It was a great experience. I am so happy that I went. I am proud of what I am doing. All writers should have that experience,” he said.
As for retirement, Oelrich plans on being the best grandfather in the world,
“Our son Jeff told us he was going to be the best dad in the world so I plan on being the best grandfather in the world,” he said.
Well on his way to his goal he and Sue have purchased drums, a piano and a guitar for three of Jeff’s four children. He said, daughter Heidi’s son is a rapper and son Bill’s daughter is into ballet and figure skating, while his son loves computers.
“They all have their special talents and we enjoy the time we can spend with them,” said Oelrich.
“I am looking forward to sharing my experiences with my grandchildren and my children and whatever time
God gives me. I have learned to enjoy every day, minute and second. That doesn’t mean I don’t get frustrated with life, I do. I just handle difficulties in a less crisis mode. I can change only me, I have to accept my place in time,” he said.
“I have been very fortunate and thank God every day for what we have. I am proud of my family and look forward to spending time with them and my wife as long as possible.
Oelrich has been a member of Holy Trinity parish for 61 years and is a member of the Royalton American Legion.