Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Epilogue | Kathryn Melnick

Kathryn Melnick savored freedom after years of captivity

LARGO — Kathryn Melnick loved her freedom.

She walked miles each day with her chihuahua mix, Daisy. She met everyone in her Largo neighborhood, slinging jokes in her trademark Ukrainian accent. At parties, she danced polka with kids and sipped a drink on New Year's Eve. She climbed orange trees in her yard and mowed her own grass.

"She was independent," said her daughter, Bronnie Fisher. "She was pretty sprightly and very fit for her age."

On Nov. 24, she walked to Publix and the dollar store, her family said. She bought Thanksgiving cookies for her grandchildren. Almost home, she crossed Oakhurst Road in Largo, stepping in front of an oncoming car. She was hit and thrown into the road. After time in the hospital, Mrs. Melnick died Monday. She was 83.

"And after she survived so much," her daughter said.

• • •

She had known the opposite of freedom.

Born in a small village in Ukraine, she lived a meager life, swimming with her sisters. When she was 14, German soldiers invaded her village at gunpoint, taking children to Nazi slave labor camps. Mrs. Melnick lived in a room with 25 people. She made wooden boxes and fish barrels at a factory. She milked cows and hauled hay on a farm.

Lunch was one scoop of cooked rutabaga. Dinner, four slices of dark beet bread. Sundays, rotten potatoes. Once, when a machine pierced her finger, a doctor ripped her nail off with pliers. The girls at camp had thinning hair from malnutrition.

When the war ended, Mrs. Melnick went to a displacement camp and met a fellow survivor, Steven. They married and moved to Belgium. When they heard America was accepting immigrants, the family moved.

They bought a New Jersey farm with 20,000 chickens. Little by little, Mrs. Melnick's fun-loving personality emerged. She befriended an attack rooster on the farm, walking him on a leash and dressing him for Easter.

In 1974, she moved to Largo with her husband. Mrs. Melnick worked at Morrison's Cafeteria and Sun Coast Hospital. When her husband died 20 years ago, she chose to embrace life rather than withdraw.

She traveled with her grown children, visiting the White House and snorkeling in the Florida Keys. She went to flea markets, watched John Wayne movies and listened to Lawrence Welk and rock 'n' roll. Although her children brought groceries, she still snuck out to shop. The freedom was precious.

The day before the accident, Mrs. Melnick spoke with Fisher on the phone. She was optimistic.

"Don't worry about me, daughter," she said. "I'm okay."

Stephanie Hayes can be reached at or (727) 893-8857.


Kathryn Melnick

Born: July 25, 1925.

Died: Dec. 1, 2008.

Survivors: children Stanley and John Melnick and Bronnie Fisher; sisters Leda and Luba; eight grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

Services: visitation at noon, followed by a service at 1 p.m. Sunday, Garden Sanctuary Funeral Home, 7950 131st St., Seminole.

Kathryn Melnick savored freedom after years of captivity 12/04/08 [Last modified: Thursday, December 4, 2008 10:04pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Jones: Bucs need success to get national respect


    Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones offers up his Two Cents on the world of sports.

    No respect

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter walks the field during the second day of mandatory minicamp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times
  2. Hopes fade after landslide destroys Chinese village (w/video)


    Crews searching through the night in the rubble left by a landslide that buried a mountain village under tons of soil and rocks in southwestern China found 15 bodies, but more than 110 more people remained missing.

    Vehicles and people line a road leading to the site of a landslide in Xinmo village in Mao County on Saturday in southwestern China’s Sichuan Province. More than 100 people remained missing after the village was buried under tons of rocks and soil.
  3. Rookie Jake Faria dissatisfied with performance in Rays' loss to Orioles

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The rookie pitcher walked to his locker Saturday after tossing the fourth quality start in as many tries to begin his career. He held the potent Orioles bats to three runs and for six innings gave his team a chance to win.

    Orioles third baseman Manny Machado tags out the Rays’ Mallex Smith at third after a rundown in the first inning.
  4. Thousands converge in two St. Pete locations celebrating LGBT rights

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — Tom Rockhill didn't know what to expect Saturday, but by noon people were knocking on the door of his bar Right Around the Corner in Grand Central.

    (From left to right) Emma Chalut 18, gets a rainbow sticker on her cheek from her sister Ellie, 15 both of Jacksonville before the annual St. Pete Pride parade in downtown St. Petersburg on Saturday. This year the route was changed from the Grand Central and Kenwood area to Bayshore Drive.
[EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times]
  5. Retired Florida Supreme Court Justice Parker Lee McDonald dies

    TALLAHASSEE — A former Florida Supreme Court justice, who wrote a decision that prevented lawyers from excluding jurors because of their race, has died.

    Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Parker Lee McDonald died Saturday, the court said in a statement. He was 93.