Getting back on his feet following his broken hip wasn't Melman's first experience at recovering from a major injury. As an Army infantryman in North Africa in World War II, Melman was riding atop an open platform car on a train that was strafed by a German fighter plane.
Melman said that when it became clear that the enemy aircraft was about to attack, he aimed his rifle at it, but forgot to release the safety switch, preventing him from firing. "I jumped off the platform car, and that's the last thing I remember about that day," he said.
Struck with shrapnel down his right side, Melman was taken to a hospital operated by the French. He credits the Red Cross with giving him the blood needed to save his life, and for providing his first visitors after being hospitalized. He was eventually transferred to a hospital in England, where he remained for six months before returning to duty.
"I donated blood to the Red Cross until I was in my late 70s, and I donated cash after that," he said. "But this year, I stopped giving to everyone. I figure at my age, I've given them plenty."
Melman said that a major goal in his life is to reach the age of 115, which would probably assure him status as the last surviving wounded-in-action World War II veteran.
But he's got other goals to accomplish before then.
He predicted that his 95th birthday trip down the New River would not be his last.
"I'm coming back here for my 100th birthday," he said. "If my health is still good and my doctor says it's OK, I'll go down the river again, and set the age record for good."
Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelham...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5169.