Bill Melville dies at 87; world-class sprinter was big force for years

Bill Melville had a gut — and guts. He ran faster than anyone with a beer belly had a right to do. So I was saddened to learn from Peter Taylor that Bill died Monday of kidney and lung cancer. Peter says he got the news from Bill’s wife, Goldie Melville. “Bill was 87 and resided in Platteville, Wisconsin,” Peter wrote. “The ‘Big Train,’ as I liked to call him, was quite a rumbler on the track and took down more than his share of gold medals. As you may recall, in Riccione (world outdoors) in 2007, Bill stampeded to victory in both the 100 (15.33) and 200 (32.08).  This, of course, was in the M80 division. Eight years earlier, in Orlando, Bill won both the 100 (13.34) and 200 (28.48) to win the gold at nationals. He was 72 at the time.”

Second from left, Bill was third in the 100 at perhaps his last major meet: 2013 Olathe nationals.

Peter continued: 

I have no idea how many other national or world titles he won in the 1990s or in the first decade of this century, but they were too many for me to remember. 

I do recall that the first time I saw him, which was at Boston indoors some years ago, I was a bit unprepared for how good he was. Who’s this big guy?  Well, when I saw him power down the straightaway in first I had a much better idea of his ability.

A very nice man who never bragged publicly or privately, as far as I could see, that he was better than anyone else, Bill will certainly be missed.

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August 20, 2014

7 Responses

  1. Roger Pierce - August 20, 2014

    Bill Melville was as Peter identified him in his races over the years, “The Big Train.”I too was surprised the first time I saw him compete many years ago. He was a big guy and he had a bit of a beer belly, but he was strong and fast!!!!
    I spoke with him a few times over the years and he was a gentle giant…a very nice man. He was an awesome sprinter and his times attest to his sprint ability. We will miss you Bill.

  2. Dick Soller - August 20, 2014

    I’ve competed many times over the years with Bill (that’s me on the left in the photo above) following him across the finish line as usual. Got to know him well and remember the time he told me he couldn’t understand how he could do as well as he did. He was a true gentleman, humble and fun to be around. May he rest in peace.

  3. Ken Stone - August 20, 2014

    Death notices say no service for Bill:

  4. Jeff Davison - August 21, 2014

    Very nice person. He will be missed.

  5. Bill Daprano - August 25, 2014

    Another of the grand oaks has fallen. Bill was a great friend of mine. We ran many relays together mostly in the World Games. To say I’ll miss him is a real under statement. Others who are sorely missed on
    those teams in our age group are Jim Law, Rodney Brown, Wilford Scott and Bill. Guess that leaves only Mel Larsen and myself.

  6. Leora Bemboom - October 14, 2014

    I didn’t know Bill very well but always thought he
    was a very nice man and a tall man. I loved the picture on here and for some reason picked him out right away. This brings back memories of PWP, trying to mentally picture past members.
    Love to you Goldie,

  7. Quinnlin Patrick - October 14, 2014

    Bill was my grandpa i wish i could have spent more time with him love you grandpa

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