Orchard Mesa loses 
animal whisperer: 
Melzer dies at age 60

Dr. Thomas Melzer

Anyone who truly knows animals will tell you the connections human beings share with them are all about energy.

Hundreds of Grand Valley animals and their owners lost one of the area’s great communicators this week with the sudden passing of Orchard Mesa veterinarian Thomas Melzer.

“I really think that he was able to speak to (animals) in some way. He knew so much about them,” said Tyler Melzer, one of his two sons. He described how his father could “ask” animals about their problems, and then use his tremendous expertise to “figure out what was wrong with them then and there.”

Thomas Melzer died from heart complications on Tuesday. He was 60 years old.

People who connected with Melzer as clients, associates and friends used words like “caring,” “positive,” “conscientious” and “gentle” to describe him Thursday.

“He was a very welcoming guy, and he welcomed a lot of people into his life,” said Nancy Hugenberg, who joined with Melzer to form a practice in 1992. They were co-partners in Orchard Mesa Veterinary Hospital, which was built in 1998.

It’s the kind of animal hospital to which people always refer others, and Melzer was a big reason why. He was trusted, invested in the Orchard Mesa community and a calm presence around animals of all kinds.

“He was great at what he did,” Hugenberg said. “I just had a lot of respect for him, and he was a mentor to me.”

Friend and client Vicki Felmlee remembered Melzer first set up shop on Orchard Mesa more than 30 years ago, in a small office in the strip mall near the ALCO.

She remembered how he once performed a major surgery on a cat struck by a car. When Melzer later could not reach the owner for payment, he sought out a cat lover — Felmlee’s father — to take the convalescing kitty home.

“He went the extra mile to make sure that cat got a really good home,” Felmlee said.

Another client and friend, Ralph D’Andrea, recalled a similar extra effort.

D’Andrea’s adopted dog, Mugsy, suffered from blood-vessel cancer, and Melzer performed five surgeries over a number of years. When her ailments became too much, Melzer attended to Mugsy for the final time at D’Andrea’s home — letting her “lay down on her rug” — because the dog had become frightened of visiting the vet’s office so many times.

“I think he would have done anything for anybody,” D’Andrea said of Melzer.

It’s fitting that a celebration of his life is planned for Saturday at 1 p.m. at the James M. Robb Colorado River State Park. Melzer and his wife Judy shared many outdoor adventures, and the Melzer family history is one of backpacking, mountain climbing and skiing that goes back generations.

Melzer’s legacy as a veterinarian will continue through the ongoing work of the professionals at Orchard Mesa Veterinary Hospital, which will close Saturday for the memorial but open for animal care after that.


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I didn’t know Tom well, but his caring character and vigorous love of live really showed.  He will be missed.

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