By Mary O’KEEFE
“On the morning of Sept. 12, 2013 I got a call from John Melone, Barbara’s husband. His words echo in my head to this day and I will never forget them. ‘We’ve lost our Barbara.’”
With those words, Clark Magnet High School Principal Doug Dall last week began his tribute to Barbara Melone.
Melone was the secretary at the high school, but the term “secretary” does not seem enough for what she did and what she meant to the school.
“Whenever you needed a question answered, or something done, she was your Barbara,” Dell said.
Barbara – Mrs. Melone as her students knew her – was the guardian of the hallways and the office. Those who walked into the school would pass her office, which was actually a desk that faced the large window into the hall. At any given time she would be collating paperwork, answering the phone, coordinating the calendar and keeping an ever-watchful eye on students.
Ramon Tumbucom is a senior at Clark Magnet and knew Mrs. Melone well.
“I heard about her [death] that morning. My teacher came in crying. I wanted to cry,” he said.
He walked past her office and leaned in, hoping maybe to see her, that it had been a mistake. She wasn’t there; it felt empty.
“I would say she was one of the toughest people in the school,” he said.
But she could also be supportive and nice. Tumbucom remembered having trouble finding a class when he first arrived at the school and Mrs. Melone had helped him. She did care about the school and the students, he said.
On that September day, as the word of her passing spread through school, the mood was somber, Tumbucom said.
Kids began Twittering about her and then arranged for everyone to wear black the following week at the school’s barbecue.
On April 30, the school dedicated a memorial to Melone.
“When Barbara passed, her sister Kathleen came to me with her son’s desire to donate a bench in Barbara’s memory for the Clark campus, and asked that I identify a suitable location,” Dall said.
The solar project at the school had created a drop in elevation in a particular area on the campus. This created a “perfect storm” of twisted ankles and scrapes knees, Dall said.
This potential hazard bothered Melone.
“So the bench location was a no brainer. Here it would be. Here it is. Here it will stay,” he said.
Then the question of what to put on the plaque came into play. This too was an obvious choice for Dall.
“The bane of Barbara’s existence was the infamous Bus 106. Whatever it was about the combination of the route schedule, traffic [and] maintenance issues that caused Bus 106 to be late, it arrived late a lot,” he said.
Many of the Clark students are bused from outside the 91214 Glendale areas. Clark is a magnet school where students throughout Glendale Unified School District can apply to attend. The students are chosen via a lottery system.
“On one typical morning, a few weeks before she passed away, Bus 106 once again arrived late,” Dall said. “Barbara made the ‘Bus 106 has just arrived’ announcement. She turned to her colleagues, chuckled and said, ‘I’m going to have them put ‘Bus has just arrived’ on my tombstone.”
It is a prominent feature of the commemorative plaque on the bench.