Obituaries » Melvin Leonard Nowlin

Melvin Leonard Nowlin

September 22, 1960 - December 30, 2022

Melvin (Mel) Leonard Nowlin, 62, of Big Island, Virginia unexpectedly went home to be with the Lord Friday, December 30, 2022.  His life was too short, but it was a very rich and full life as evidenced by his hands being in a thousand different pots, and usually all at the same time. We cannot begin to do justice to this special, wonderful man and his contributions to the world in just these few following paragraphs.

Mel was a graduate of Virginia Military Institute. He held a Master’s degree from the University of Virginia and a doctorate degree in Chemistry from Emory University.  He taught at the U.S. Air Force Academy and at Central Virginia Community College.

Mel and his family moved to Bedford County in 2001 after a career in the Air Force where he was stationed at several bases including Dayton, OH, Colorado Springs, CO, and Albuquerque, NM.  Mel worked at C.B. Fleet Laboratories, BWX Technologies, Inc., and as a Paramedic for Bedford County Department of Fire and Rescue.  In addition to his professional pursuits, he volunteered for his church home St. John’s Episcopal Church, Big Island Volunteer Fire Company, and the Emergency Crews of Big Island, Campbell County, and BWX Technology.  He accomplished all of that in addition to building a beautiful home and maintaining a farm.

Mel loved to travel and was planning trips to Greece and Scotland in 2023.  He had a love of camping that he built during his childhood.  He was an avid runner and outdoorsman.  He loved to bike and hike, and was training to hike the entire Appalachian Trail.  Mel and his family traveled to many National Parks and areas of interest while living around the country.  He loved to talk to children about his interests such as firefighting.  He attended many soccer games, tennis matches, track meets, and band competitions during his children’s youth.  He loved playing tricks on folks and everyone who knew him, knows that trademark laugh/guffaw/giggle.  He cracked himself up!

Mel is survived and will be greatly missed by his loving wife, Martha Paxton Nowlin, his three daughters and their spouses, Sara (Greg) Hall of Columbus, OH, Theresa (Michael) Peregoff of Chesapeake, VA and Kimberly (Lacy) Burnette of Goodview, VA.; granddaughter Elizabeth Burnette; sister Joann (JD) Sprouse; brother Gary (Maryellen) Nowlin; brother-in-law David (Vicki) Paxton, Joseph (Annette) Paxton, James (Hilda) Paxton and a host of much beloved nephews and nieces as well as his faithful four legged companion, Andy.  He was preceded in death by his father, Donald Minor Nowlin, mother Virginia Clayton Nowlin, and brother Alan Ray Nowlin.

A visitation will be held Thursday, January 5, 2023, from 6 – 8 p.m. at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Bedford.  A memorial service will be held on Friday, January 6, 2023, at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Bedford at 2 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to St. John’s Episcopal Church, 314 N. Bridge Street, Bedford, VA 24523 or to Big Island Volunteer Fire Company, P. O. Box 122, Big Island, VA 24526.

To send condolences, please visit Tharp Funeral Home, Bedford is assisting the family.

Condolences & Tributes

Celebrate Melvin's life with a short message, photo or video!

Joann, I am so sorry about Melvin’s passing. I remember him from the old neighborhood and high school. He was a good guy and I know you’ll miss him.

Posted by Chuck Arrington on January 15, 2023

Cowboy Mel, I will miss you and all the memories we shared at Fleet and most of all, your Love for standing up in Truth and never wavering no matter what. You Truly had a Loving Heart for ALL. Your friend in Christ always. Love, Ruby Anderson

Posted by Ruby Anderson on January 7, 2023

Mel was a great friend and a wonderful colleague. I'm saddened by his passing. Abraham Lincoln's eloquent words in the Bixby letter can only begin to express my deep feelings for the Nowlin family: “I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost."

Posted by Jim Joy on January 7, 2023

We were so sorry to hear of Mel passing. My husband and I both worked with him at BWXT but we were more than co-workers but friends. Please know if there is anything we can do please reach out to us. I could not attend the service today as I have been fighting something and didn't want to share it with anyone. My husband went but there was a lady that got there late and there were no seats left available for her to seat down so my husband offered his, therefore he missed the service and I know he was sad about that. Mel you and your family are in our prayers.

Posted by Cathy & Kenny Ewing on January 6, 2023

Martha, I am so sorry to hear this sad news. He sounds like an amazing man and that you had a wonderful life together. Too short I know. I will be praying for you and your family.

Posted by Karlyne Collins on January 5, 2023

Wish I could be with you all at this devastating time. Prayers, hugs and love going out to Martha, the girls, Joann and Gary. Take care.

Posted by PEGGY BROWER on January 4, 2023

Before I met Melvin Nowlin, I found myself privileged to be one of his grandparent’s neighbors. After living next door to Leonard and his wife (i.e., Mel's namesake, as his middle name is shared by that of his grandfather), it became easy to see where Mel received his family values. They had to have been instilled from an early age. Mel's grandparents were the salt-of-the-earth kind of folks, and I am still trying to mimic Mel's grandmother's homemade apple butter recipe. I know she put those cinnamon 'red hots' in hers--as do I, but my batches never quite seem to measure up to hers. Yet. Her creations were like memories in a jar. Then, in 1974, I was fortunate enough to meet Mel. The place was Roanoke county's Glenvar High School. We shared several classes over those wonderful years, and even though I wasn't the football jock type--and while his football colleagues were numerous, I remember Mel making room in his life for everyone. Swift with a joke and quick-witted in response to someone else's quip simply made him a joy to be around. He even proved to be somewhat of a playwright--having orchestrated a minor (albeit on-the-sly) re-write to a re-enactment of Julius Caesar's betrayal scene during Latin Week as part of Mrs. Bohling's Latin classes. In an all-student assembly, on stage, Mel and I exchanged our only slightly "modernized" narratives--resulting in the audience's vast amusement (i.e., we brought the house down); Mrs. Bohling was less enthused.... Whether it was Latin class, or whether it was Mel's acting as 'Luther Billis' from "Tales of the South Pacific" in our Junior Year of High School, or Mel's playing Center for Salem High School's football team (first graduating class, 1978, Salem High School)--which, by the way, is where Mel met Martha, or whether it was his being part of the 'Polish Boys Ensemble' (PBE Forever!)--which was an attempt to bring Queen's immortal "Bohemian Rhapsody" to life for our Senior Talent Show—the intersection of those 4 years (apparently) has left an indelible mark on my life. Even some 45-years later, I can see the mischievous glint in his eyes and hear his deep, heart-felt and infectious laugh as if it were yesterday. To those of us that knew him (most better than even myself) we rely upon our memories—extremely blest Mel was part of our lives; we are so better off having known him and had him with us during life's journey. For those he served with in the military, the turn of the phrase 'thanks from a grateful nation', while certainly much appreciated, still pales, somewhat, when compared to the example Mel brought (and no doubt, lived day-by-day) during his years of service to the Air Force. To those in the world who never knew Mel: Quite simply, you don't know what you missed.... While Mel was in the Air Force, I served in the Navy--and the Navy has a farewell saying that I hope Mel won't mind my sharing, here: "Fair winds and following seas".... Until our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ returns and we are, once more, rejoined with those who have gone before, may such sentiments tide us over till then. You will, most assuredly, be missed.

Posted by Mike Gentry on January 4, 2023

Blessings & Peace from God, Our Father and Our Lord, Jesus Christ. Mel was liked by many at BWXT. We all found Mel to have a listening ear and we enjoyed his sense of humor. Mel always strived to \"AIM HIGH\"! We will certainly miss you - Buddy & Friend.

Posted by Jerry Adams on January 4, 2023

Blessings & Peace from God, Our Father and Our Lord, Jesus Christ. Mel was liked by many at BWXT. We all found Mel to have a listening ear and we enjoyed his sense of humor. Mel always strived to "AIM HIGH"! We will certainly miss you - Buddy & Friend.

Posted by Jerry Adams on January 4, 2023

My prayers to a great family and good neighbors. He was a very good friend of mine. Will miss our talks. He was a man of many talents and skills. I learned alot from helping him when he built his house. Will be missed alot in our community.

Posted by Frankie Byers on January 4, 2023

A truly kind, capable and accomplished man. Taken far to soon. Prayers of Comfort to Martha and all his Family.

Posted by Mike Poff & Family on January 4, 2023

I'm truly sorry to here of Mr. Nowlin's passing. I had the privilege of meeting him about 5 yrs ago when my granddaughter was in Mrs.Nowlin's class .My thoughts and prayers go out to all the family.May God rest his and prayers Beth and family

Posted by Beth Moore on January 3, 2023

Very sorry for your loss….I’ll always remember Mel from the fire department. He was encouraging to me taking classes and was willing to help me in any way I needed. Always will remember Mel and I in the brush truck responding to numerous calls together. Prayers to the family

Posted by Dale Overstreet on January 3, 2023

So very sorry for your loss. Keeping everyone in our thoughts and prayers.

Posted by Morris and Debbie Zirk on January 3, 2023

Such a good person and he will be missed by so many people. Prayers for the family.

Posted by Bondurant Tammy on January 3, 2023

Good man, prayers for family. The community will miss you!

Posted by Matt Byers on January 3, 2023

Prayers for Martha and family at this time

Posted by Whorley Larry on January 3, 2023

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