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Man from Bay Area, killed in Mexico, mourned

Anthony Joseph “Tonee” Mello, born March 5, 1947, in Oakland, was found dead April 14 in a well on his property in Oaxaca, Mexico.

by Seth Hemmelgarn, Bay Area Reporter
June 16, 2011

Family and friends of a gay former Bay Area resident who was recently killed in Mexico will be remembering him this Father’s Day.

Anthony Joseph “Tonee” Mello, born March 5, 1947, in Oakland, was found dead April 14 in a well on his property in Oaxaca, Mexico. Mello’s friend Ron Schmidt of San Francisco and his son Jon Mello of Scotts Valley believe two people burglarized his home and murdered him days before the discovery.

A gathering celebrating Mr. Mello, who was 64, will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday, June 19, at Cafe Flore, 2298 Market Street in San Francisco.

In an interview, Schmidt called Mr. Mello, whom he’d known for 30 years, “one of my very dearest friends” and “a mentor.”

Acknowledging that he was still talking about Mr. Mello in the present tense, Schmidt said, “He’s 10 years and one month younger than I am, but he’s always been 10 years and one month ahead of me in activism.”

In an email, Schmidt said that Mr. Mello had served in Vietnam and that experience “forever set him against war and violence of any kind.”

After his discharge, Mr. Mello and his then-partner, Alan Paul, raised Jon, Mr. Mello’s biological son; Michael and Scoot, two adopted children; and three foster boys.

Mr. Mello often hosted potlucks for a gay fathers group in San Jose and, along with his family, spoke at local high schools and colleges. In 1986, Mr. Mello’s household was among six other families featured in a documentary on gay life, according to Jon Mello.

Mr. Mello eventually moved to Oaxaca and owned a small home with a large garden. Throughout the years, he rescued and cared for many animals. His menagerie recently included two dogs, three cats, a burro named Lucky, and four koi fish.

Jon Mello, who said his father had been shot in the head and beaten, said a Mexican judge threw out the case against the people who had allegedly killed his father.

The American Embassy consular agent in Oaxaca did not respond to an emailed request to verify information that Jon Mello provided. Mello said in an email that he’s contacted the office of Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto) about the case. In response to an email from the Bay Area Reporter, an Eshoo staffer declined to comment.

Discussing his father, Jon Mello said, “I could tell him anything and feel safe and comfortable with that, so I’m going to miss that a lot. I don’t have anybody else like that in my life.”

Mr. Mello is survived by his son Jon and daughter-in-law Laurie and granddaughters Ashlyn, Rachel and Jena of Scotts Valley; sister Jean Rodriguez of Utah; nieces Tina and Denise; grandnieces Natalee and Anneleise; grandnephews Alex, Zach and Topher; and many close friends.

People can RSVP for the memorial by contacting Schmidt at (415) 587-6275 or ronstreehouse@earthlink.net.

Donations in Mr. Mello’s name are suggested to the Trevor Project, http://www.thetrevorproject.org, the It Gets Better campaign at http://www.itgetsbetter.org, Gay-Straight Alliance Network at http://www.gsanetwork.org, or La Raza Centro Legal at http://techforpeople.net/~lrcl/.

By El Enemigo Común

A bilingual website in solidarity with social movements in Mexico. // Un sitio web bilingüe en solidaridad con los movimientos sociales en México.