Michael Melich, a Utah-raised physicist who forged a successful career in various civilian positions in the United States Navy for nearly a half-century, died on Friday, June 28, 2019, in Annapolis, Maryland.
He fought an arduous and brave battle against prostate cancer over the last two years before succumbing at the age of 79.
Although his Navy career situated him mostly on the East Coast, Michael maintained strong physical and emotional ties to Utah throughout his adult life. He owned a second home in Salt Lake City for three decades, until selling it last autumn.
Michael Edward Melich was born Feb. 22, 1940, in Moab, Utah, to Mitchell and Doris Snyder Melich. A brilliant student in math and science, he ran out of challenges after his first three years of high school in Moab and took his senior year at the University of Utah. He came back in the spring to graduate with his Grand County High School mates in the Class of 1958.
In the next decade, Michael collected a number of academic degrees: a B.S. in physics from Stanford (1961); an M.S. in experimental physics from the University of Utah (1963); and an M.A. and Ph.D. in theoretical physics, both from Rice University (1966 and ’67).
After getting his doctorate, he went to work as an operations analyst at the Center for Naval Analysis in Washington, D.C.
In April of 1970, Michael married Gayle Peters in a ceremony at his parents’ Washington, D.C., apartment, and shortly thereafter, the newlyweds drove across the country to settle in San Diego, where Michael had been assigned as an operations analyst for the commander of the First Fleet.
In 1972, they returned to Washington, D.C., where Michael headed a command-control section for the Center for Naval Analysis. In 1976, he moved over to the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., as the head of the Navy Command and Control System Lead Laboratory.
After nearly a decade at NRL, he took a leave of absence in 1985 to work at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, where he was a chair and professor in combat systems engineering. The leave was originally to be for two years, but he stayed at NPS for 30 years before retiring at the end of 2015.
In 1989, Michael and Gayle moved their home base from Arlington, Virginia to Niceville, Florida, while Michael was commuting seasonally to his job in Monterey. That same year, they also bought a condo in Salt Lake City in order to whet his desire to spend at least parts of the succeeding years in his home state.
Overlapping his tenure at NPS, Michael was also deeply involved in the cold-fusion community since the 1989 discovery of the Pons-Fleischmann Effect at the University of Utah, serving in research and advisory capacities for the U.S. government. In 2008, he was the co-chair of the 14th International Conference on Cold Fusion in Washington, D.C.
It was at a cold-fusion conference in Russia in 2007 that Michael, who had been widowed when Gayle died of cancer in 2005, met Marianne Macy, a print and broadcast journalist and oral historian from New York. They married in September of 2009, and lived for the last six years in Annapolis.
Michael was a man of many interests and appetites. He loved cars, especially his beloved 356 Porsche that he took in for body work one day, only to have it marooned for 27 years, a headline story in family lore. He loved music and the theater. He traveled extensively as a Delta Million Miler. He liked to play squash and to hike in the red rocks of Utah that he held deeply in his soul.
Michael Melich was survived by his wife, Marianne Macy; his sisters, Tanya (Noel) Silverman, of New York and Nancy (Lex) Hemphill, of Salt Lake City; and brother Robert (Katie) of Louisville, Colorado. In addition, he is survived and fondly remembered by a crew of nephews, nieces and cousins. He was predeceased by his parents. Plans are being made for a memorial service in the Washington, D.C., area this fall.