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The plaque at the top of Avenger Drive noting the Mark Eldredge Mellor Memorial Bridge. Credit: EG News

When Mark Mellor died at age 19 in South Vietnam, the war came home to East Greenwich. It was May 1968. Mark’s father was an EG policeman, his mom was the school nurse at Eldredge. And Mark was the youngest of three children.

The Mellors were East Greenwich, through and through. So much so, Mark was given the middle name ”Eldredge” after the school.

Mellor, private first class, was killed by a grenade in Quang Ngai, South Vietnam, on May 30, Memorial Day, only three months after arriving in Vietnam.

It’s been 46 years almost to the day since Ted Mellor learned his kid brother was killed in Vietnam. Those years vanish when he talks about that day.

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Mark Mellor’s senior picture. 

“My cousin showed up and came down to tell me,” he says, sucking in breath and letting out a sob, overcome with emotion that still surprises him. “I think it’s gone, but it isn’t.”

They had to wait a long two weeks until Mark’s body arrived back home – “that was hard,” says Ted. The funeral was big.

“The town really outdid itself, it did,” recalls Ted. “They made a real big thing of it. It was really something, I mean, they had the police department with the rifles crossed over outside the church.

“It was tough – the hardest punch I’ve ever taken. Anything else after that was nothing, because I was close with him,” says Ted, who was 7 years older than Mark.

“We were opposites,” Ted says. “He was outwardly, I was inwardly. He was popular. He liked to fish, hunt, liked cars and pigeons.”

Mark enlisted, just like Ted had before him. By enlisting, Ted explains, you got to pick what sort of work you wanted to do. But Mark wasn’t so lucky when it came to timing – 1968 was the deadliest year for the U.S. during the war in Vietnam, with 16,592 dead. East Greenwich’s only other Vietnam death, Charles Callahan, took place two months later, on July 21.

“My father never came back,” after Mark’s death, says Ted. “He never came back from that. “My mother did pretty good. She wasn’t the same, but she did pretty good, but not my father, not my father.”

Even now, Ted wonders about Mark going to Vietnam from small-town East Greenwich.

“Put a young kid like that in Vietnam, right out of training, he became cannon fodder.”

“East Greenwich was a smaller community then,” says Sally Russell, who graduated with Mark from East Greenwich High School in 1967. “Those things were very real to us at that time. It was really a community event when it happened.”

Linda McCarthy calls Mark her “first love” – they dated freshman year. Mark’s death “hit everyone hard because we were all so young. That was probably the first death for most of us.”

At the time of his death, Mark was engaged to another Linda, Linda Knight.

“I think everyone was in a state of shock. It shook people up,” says Carmine D’Ellena, another classmate. “Here’s a kid who walked through high school graduation months before he was killed in Vietnam.”

When asked to describe Mark, Linda McCarthy laughs. “When the TV show “Happy Days” came on, with Fonzie? That was Mark,” she says. “He lived and breathed cars. He was the coolest boy in the class.”

“She’s right,” Sally says about the Fonzie comparison. “He was a lot of fun, but he had a serious side too.”

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Mark Mellor receiving his senior mug. Courtesy Linda McCarthy

Serious enough that he enlisted rather than wait to be drafted. His senior quote in the EGHS yearbook: “Be just and fear not.”

“He was a good looking kid,” recalls Alan Clarke, who was a few years older. “I remember him driving around in a convertible, the world on his string, just before he went to Nam.”

The Town of East Greenwich named the Middle Road bridge over Route 4 for Mark in 1973. The rock bearing a plaque with his name sits at the top of Avenger Drive, on the east side of the bridge.