Melanie Latzko Bradley, 56, passed away peacefully at home the morning of Thursday, July 28, 2022. She had her beloved family with her for her final goodbye. She was born Nov. 12, 1965, in Goshen, N.Y., a day earlier than her due date of Nov. 13. Her mother Marjorie Latzko did not want her daughter to have a birthday on Friday the 13th so she was induced on the 12th to avoid any future bad luck.
Melanie grew up in Blooming Grove, N.Y., with her parents, Walter (who predeceased her) and Marjorie, and her two older brothers, Jeff, and Curtis. She developed her passion for music from her parents. Walter was a world-renowned barbershop music arranger, and Marjorie is a member of The Chordettes. Melanie inherited her father’s gift of perfect pitch. She played the oboe, piano and organ in high school. She spent a lot of her childhood collaborating with her father, where they played a lot of music together. Walter’s years of being a church organist inspired Melanie to get her first church organist job at the age of 16. She received many awards in school including the Orange County Music Educators Award and the John Philip Sousa Award. Melanie attended Ithaca College, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in chamber music. Throughout her college life, she played at surrounding churches in addition to her recital and accompaniment work. Melanie won the Ithaca College School of Music Concerto Competition. After graduation in 1988, she moved to Maryland to attend University of Maryland and obtain a master of music degree. It was there that she met her future husband, Jason Bradley.
Melanie and Jason began their romance as coworkers at TGI Fridays in Greenbelt, Md. He was her manager, and she was a hostess. Soon after they started dating, she was really the boss. While pursuing her education and working various jobs including cosmetic sales and retail management, she also began as an organist at Twinbrook Baptist Church in Rockville, Md., where she worked until she moved to Delaware. Jason and Melanie were married in June of 1993 and began their married life in Laurel, Md. Jason began working with Outback Steakhouse in 1994 and a year later Melanie also joined Outback, working in the office. In 1995, Jason lost both of his parents and Melanie lost her maternal grandfather and her closest aunt. That year Melanie and Jason were able to support each other’s sorrow and help each other live on. They found a middle ground by blending their respective faiths together. They celebrated Jewish holidays exchanging gifts for eight themed gift nights for Hanukah, and Melanie trying gefilte fish and Matzah at Passover. Jason got his first ever Easter basket and decorated his first Christmas tree with her stringing together cranberries and popcorn to make a garland for the tree which their Shetland sheepdog destroyed overnight by gently eating the popcorn off the string without breaking it. Their son Aaron was born in 1997 and their son Ryan was born in 2000, both at Shady Grove Hospital in Rockville, Md. This was the job Melanie had been waiting for her entire life, she was a mom of a young family. She and her boys were inseparable. Aaron often accompanied her to work and would be in a playpen in her office as Ryan did a few years later. Melanie and Jason spent a great deal of time with friends who also had young children around the same age. Life was pretty great.
In 2001, Melanie and Jason had the opportunity to move to Delaware to open the new Outback in Rehoboth. While Jason worked long hours hiring staff and working with the construction firm, Melanie was often alone with her boys and ventured out in the community to start this next chapter of their lives. Later that year a mutual friend introduced her to Jerry Birl, who needed an accompanist for a recital at Milford Senior Center. That’s when Melanie’s Delaware music career was launched. A member of the Lewes Presbyterian Church saw her at the recital and in 2002, she became the organist there. Melanie later became the praise band leader, choir director and music director for the church, playing three services every Sunday and having mid-week rehearsals, as well as many special events and functions. It was a common sight to see people touch Melanie’s shoulder when walking past her seated at the organ, many stopping for a quick hug or an “I love you.” A while later, a parishioner at her church recruited her to be the music director for the Milton Theatre’s production of “The Fantasticks.” This led to her being recruited to work with Clear Space Theatre’s production of “Tintypes,” as an on-stage musician. She quickly became one of the music directors at the theater. In addition to the church and Clear Space, Melanie’s musical influence flowed throughout Sussex County. She played with multiple school choruses and for high school plays. She taught piano out of her Lewes home. She played at local bars and eateries with friends. She did a number of shows as music director with Possum Point Players and Second Street Players. She coached The Cadbury Chorus at The Moorings. Melanie eventually became the full-time music director at Clear Space working with singers of all ages from the youngest beginning with Broadway Bound, then on to Spotlight on Young Performers, main stage musical shows, and seniors in the Legends of Broadway program. Melanie worked with a lot of high school musicians at Clear Space including her son Ryan on drums with his two best friends on bass and guitar. She nicknamed the quartet Mama’s Boys.
Coffee runs were always a time she would catch up with the gang. Melanie always had a hug for everyone she saw and was always encouraging people to do their very best. Many younger folks she encountered credit her with helping them through rough patches in their lives, being a second mom, and helping influence their lives. I’ve been told that “Mama Mel” was a mom to all and a mother of two. Her “I love you” was a common phrase she would tell everyone. She was love. Whether she knew you her whole life or just bumped into you at Marshall’s, she found something she loved about you and she would certainly tell you. This was her magic touch in forging lifelong friendships. She was friends with local baristas, shop owners, and restaurateurs. The running joke she and Jason had was that she was the honorary mayor of Lewes and Rehoboth. “Mayoring” was a term they coined as Melanie personally greeted people throughout her day.
In 2012, Melanie found out that she had ovarian cancer and underwent surgery at Christiana Hospital to have it removed. She began chemotherapy a few weeks later and after six months of treatment was officially in remission. She remained in remission for two years. Then cancer reemerged, and Melanie went back into treatment. Over the next eight years, she remained very active in her work and personal life, not slowing down or complaining about her situation. She learned to live with cancer. She was very grateful to her doctors and nurses at Tunnell Cancer Center for the personalized care she received. They made the trauma of cancer less frightening with their encouragement and support. She was in their care until she passed.
Melanie’s gracious nature, quick wit, enchanting smile and intelligence throughout her life made her a unique individual that people gravitated to. If Facebook is any measure of someone’s likeability, her 1,700+ friends are proof positive that people want to be friends with her. She personally made every single one of those friendships in addition to more folks, not through social media. We all lost a talented, beautiful soul when we lost Melanie. She is most likely collaborating with her father again in heaven making more beautiful music together. Above all, Melanie was a wonderful and nurturing wife, mother, and friend. Loved by many, she will be deeply and genuinely missed by all who had the good fortune to know her.
A visitation will be held from 6 to 9 p.m., Friday, Sept. 16, at Lewes Presbyterian Church, 133 Kings Hwy., Lewes, where a memorial will be held the following day from 2 to 3 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 17.
A celebration of life will take place from 4 to 5 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 18, at Clear Space Theatre Company, 20 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach.
Final care has been entrusted to Parsell Funeral Homes & Crematorium, Atkins-Lodge Chapel, Lewes.
Visit Melanie's Life Memorial webpage and sign her virtual guestbook at parsellfuneralhomes.com.