Kannapolis man receives Order of the Long Leaf Pine
By Hugh Fisher
For the Salisbury Post
KANNAPOLIS - For many, the Order of the Long Leaf Pine is North Carolina's highest honor.
The award has been given to notable North Carolinians such as Andy Griffith and Charles Kuralt.
But his friends say the state's newest honoree, who received the award Sunday morning, is notable for his humility and devotion to service.
Frank Melton is quiet, but those who know him say his actions speak volumes.
"I've known him since before I was born," said Tim McInnis, Melton's friend who nominated him for the award.
McInnis' parents were friends of the Meltons, and Frank Melton was, among other things, McInnis' first Boy Scout leader.
He described Melton and his wife, Jimmie, as "determined optimists."
"The world would be a better place if we had more like him," McInnis said.
Born Francis Clyde Melton, he's a lifelong Kannapolis resident who worked for 43 years at Cannon Mills.
But after he retired in 1995, Melton continued working in the community. He's been a member of the Cannon Memorial YMCA in Kannapolis for over 60 years, with 54 years' membership in the John R. Mott Y Service Club.
As a member of Second Presbyterian Church for over six decades, he was an elder, a choir member and Sunday School superintendant, among other roles.
Today, the Meltons are members of Bethpage Presbyterian Church.
His pastor, the Rev. Ellen Campbell Gardner, said she has learned much from him.
"Frank is the rare combination of extraordinary talent and profound humility," she said.
"His life and service are a reflection of his deep love of his savior, and his dedication to live his life just as Jesus lived his," she said.
The Order of the Long Leaf Pine was presented at a breakfast meeting of the Kannapolis Area Presbyterian Men's organization.
Melton has been instrumental in supporting that organization, which combines men from both majority white and African-American churches.
At the breakfast, surrounded by well-wishers including three of his grandchildren, Melton said the award was a great honor.
But, he said, "I don't think we get to any place in life on our journey that many other people weren't a part of."
He spoke of his faith, which has guided him. And, he said, "I was blessed with great parents and family. I think that makes you who are, their principles and guidance."
He said the Presbyterian Men's fellowship "has given me a lot of energy to do good things for other people."
The resume of his other community accomplishments is long, including volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, Cooperative Christian Ministry, Cabarrus Victim Assistance Network and others.
Those avenues of service have left him with what he says is his biggest lesson for the world around him.
"So much has been given to us, and we need to give back to the community," Melton said.
In presenting Melton the award, a former pastor of Second Presbyterian, the Rev. Brant Piper, included a little good-natured ribbing.
"Because this presentation is about the Long Leaf Pine, I think it's fair to say that Frank is the sap that holds you all together!" Piper joked, to laughter and applause from the assembled Presbyterian Men, their wives and the guests.
At the same time, he praised Melton's dependability, his kindness to visitors and children, and his spirit of giving.
Piper shared the story of Melton's brother, Bo, who was injured while Frank was in elementary school.
A falling tree branch left Bo with brain damage. Once their parents could no longer care for him, Piper said, Frank took charge.
And, when Bo's health meant that he needed nursing home services, the Meltons moved into an apartment at the Caremoor Retirement Center so they could continue to care for him.
At age 78, his wife of 60 years said that preparing for the award led them to discover something that helps define Frank.
Jimmie Melton said that, when they looked through photos to find some of his various activities, Frank wasn't in any of the photos."He always makes sure other people are in the pictures," Jimmie said. "That's just the kind of man he is."
One of his grandsons, Levi Gray, agreed.
"The fact that he raised us in service to the community formed us in our own lives," Levi said.
"We wouldn't be who we are today without our grandparents' example."Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor's desk at 704-797-4244.