News

Longtime Ojai Valley News columnist Mel Bloom passes away at age 92

web 12 27 MelAllyAndra
Photo courtesy of Ally Mills
From left, Ojai Valley News employees Ally Mills, Mel Bloom and Andra Belknap in 2016. 

 

Andra Belknap, Ojai Valley News Contributor
Mel Bloom, known to Ojai Valley News subscribers for his long-running weekly column, “Much Ado About Nothing,” — occasionally co-written by Mel’s beloved cat “Mr. Chips” — passed away peacefully at his Ojai home Dec. 20, according to his daughter, Marsha “Tink” Anderson. He was 92 years old.
“Dad had three children. The first one, they called Champ. The next brother was Chief. Me, it was kind of a time of Disney. I got Tinkerbell,” Marsha recalled. “Dad gave nicknames to a lot of people.” To this day, Marsha goes by “Tink” when she’s in Ojai.
Mel, a World War II veteran, world-class Anglophile and a lifelong writer, spent most of his career as a literary agent. His friends and family recall his playful sense of humor, sweet demeanor and ability to recite English poetry from memory.
“My dad was really a very vigorous young man until he turned 90,” Tink added.
Mel’s beloved wife, Andrea (Andi), preceded him in death. She passed away in 2015.
“As he was passing away, he was seeing things and hearing things that we didn’t experience,” Tink said. “He said: ‘Andi’s here. Oh, she’s beautiful.’”
Andi and Mel spent their retirement years in Ojai quite by accident, Mel recalled during a 2012 interview with the Ojai Valley News.
Andi, who owned a gift shop and tearoom known as Tottenham Court in Studio City, California, was gifted a stay at The Oaks at Ojai in the late 1980s, and noticed that 242 E. Ojai Ave. (the current home of Osteria Monte Grappa) was for sale. Andi and Mel soon relocated and opened Ojai’s Tottenham Court.
Mel and Andi frequently visited England, and had a particular fondness for London’s Berkeley Square. They each loved the 1939 song, “A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square.”
So devoted to their favorite spot, Mel and Andi purchased a park bench in the center of the square.
A placard on the bench is engraved with the following message: “Presented by American Melvin Bloom, who hopes that everyone who sits in this little enclave of heaven will hear the song of the nightingale.”
Mel and Andi established the Berkeley Square Bench Club for those who made the pilgrimage to Berkeley Square to sit in Mel’s bench. Membership in the club merely required prospective members to send Mel a photo of him or her sitting on the bench. Each member was gifted a Berkeley Square Bench Club pin as a sign of membership.
Tink confirmed that one of her neighbors became the final member of the bench club in November 2019. The bench is still there.
Mel made a point to ensure each of his friends knew how he cherished them.
A few years ago, Mel turned up in the Ojai Valley News office with a special gift for Circulation Manager Ally Mills — a glass plaque that proclaimed Mel’s membership in the “Ally Mills Fan Club.”
Ally insisted the gift was presented for “no particular reason.” 
“That was just one of the things that he would do,” she said.
This reporter can confirm that indeed, that was just one of the things Mel would do.