Obituary: Mel H. Droege

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Posted at 11:02 AM, Nov 09, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-09 13:02:47-05

Mel H. Droege, 93, of Bozeman died November 4, 2023. He was born to Anna and William Droege in Fort Dodge, Iowa on February 2, 1930. Mel graduated from Fort Dodge High School. He was a member of the school track team and ran the Mile Run and the Two Mile Relay races, earning several event medals in the process.  

After graduating from high school in 1948, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and served his country in the U.S. and Japan, as well as in the Korean combat zone in 1950/51. He was awarded the United Nations Service Medal and the Korean Service Medal with battle star. Mel was a life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.  

After his military service, Mel studied industrial electronics at DeVry Technical Institute in Chicago. He then completed the four-year Electrical Engineering curriculum at Iowa State University. Upon graduating in 1958, Mel joined AT&T as a Western Electric company field engineer, providing technical support to U.S. Army personnel at Nike Hercules guided missile systems. During the next 20 years, this career took him to military sites around the U.S., Greenland, and Germany. From 1972 to 1979, Mel was on the team that installed and operated the Free World’s first operational anti-ballistic missile system, the Safeguard Site 1 in North Dakota.  

He was then transferred to Bell Laboratories in Naperville, Illinois, working in telephone switching systems development. Mel’s final assignment in his 34-year career with AT&T was as classroom instructor in telephone switching system computers at the AT&T Corporate Education Center in Lisle, Illinois. His assignments took him and his family to North Carolina, New Jersey, Alabama, Greenland, Germany, Colorado, North Dakota, and Illinois, before retiring in Bozeman.  

In 1960, Mel married his Iowa sweetheart, Margaret Ehen. Daughter Marie was born during their first five-year stay in Germany, and son Mike was born in Colorado. Then Mel was transferred back to Germany where he provided technical support for the German Luftwaffe. Mel liked to joke that during this second assignment to Germany, they put their children in a British Embassy school in Cologne, which taught them to speak German with a British accent.  

Mel and Margaret discovered Bozeman during skiing trips from North Dakota, during which they taught their two children to ski at Bridger Bowl. They bought their lot in Bozeman in 1976 and moved here after Mel’s retirement in 1992.  

Mel’s interests included flying, soaring, skiing, hiking, traveling, chess, and cosmology. He was a member of the Manhattan Flying Tigers flying club and enjoyed many hours of flight time in his various residence locations. As an avid glider pilot, he gave more than 60 friends their first glider ride.  

Mel was an active member of First Lutheran Church in Bozeman and looked forward to meeting his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He is survived by his wife, Margaret of Bozeman; daughter, Marie (Ed) Tuhy of Klamath Falls, OR; son, Mike Droege of Carson City, NV; grandchildren, Calvin (Ashley) Tuhy and Nicole Tuhy; and one great-grandson, Soren Tuhy.  

A Memorial Service will be held at 11:00 A.M. on Wednesday, December 13 at First Lutheran Church. Interment will follow at 2:00 P.M. at Sunset Hills Cemetery.  

In lieu of flowers, donations in Mel’s name may be made to Love INC Gallatin County, PO Box 7117, Bozeman, MT 59771.  

Arrangements are in the care of Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service. []