In memory of
KUSIN, Melvin Melvin Kusin Texarkana 1926-2018 Dallas His friends and family agree: Melvin Kusin broke into his stride during the back stretch of his life. At age 78, he was the oldest person ever accepted into the doctoral program in political science at the University of Texas. He became an avid athlete, training three and four times a week for a quarter century. At 85, he founded a new business that one of his grandsons now runs. And at his death on December 31, 2018, he was twelve days shy of his 93rd birthday. This was much he was looking forward to. Ten days after his death, on January 10th, he was to have introduced an old friend, Michael McFaul of Stanford University, the former US Ambassador to Russia, whom he invited to speak in Dallas at a forum he founded in the early 1990s. As the oldest living alumnus of the Longhorn Marching Band, Melvin was to have joined the 'Horns in Normandy in June 2019 to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day Landings. Death at home occurred rapidly from lymphoma, according to his daughter, Melanie Kusin Rowe. He was surrounded and uplifted by love, having hosted all of his grandchildren during the final two weeks. Earlier in the year, in March, he had presided over his 72nd family Passover Seder, after having served as the Kusin family patriarch since the age of twelve following the death of his father in 1938. Until the very end, Mel's mind was clear, his intellect as probing as ever. Melvin and his beloved wife, Barbara Ann Wise Kusin, moved from Texarkana to Dallas in 1990 when they realized that they could finish the sentences of their circle of friends. They craved new intellectual challenges and new pursuits after raising their family and achieving four decades of accomplishment in business and civic leadership. They had accustomed their four children to be open-minded, open-hearted humanists in Texarkana, much more a southern city than Texian, where Kusins had lived since 1919. In Dallas, Melvin blossomed on his own terms beginning late in his seventh decade. In the early 1990s, he founded the International Perspective Series, a nationally acclaimed speakers' forum that convenes four times annually and is focused on international security issues. To support the initiative, Kusin formed a collaboration between the Dallas World Affairs Council and the American Jewish Committee. At its annual planning sessions, Melvin had an ability for unerringly selecting topics and speakers for the following year that often erupted into global significance a week or two prior to the public events. Many of the speakers became his close friends over the years, and dinner parties at his home were fixtures of the academic and intellectual life of Dallas. He was an ardent supporter of the Tower Center and the Center for Presidential History, both at SMU. Among his closest circle of Dallas friends were members of the SMU faculties. Three additional extracurricular activities dominated the final 30 years of his life. He competed during his late 70s and early 80s in the 100- and 200-yard dash of the Senior Olympics, once arriving in a private jet because of an otherwise impossibly congested calendar. He obsessively perfected his secret recipe for The Devil's Own Chili, a startup business he launched in his mid-eighties that a grandson now runs. (In fact, his chili has attained cult followings in some of the more august foreign policy think tanks around the US. And no wonder: each of the public speakers for his international affairs program was awarded ample supplies of The Devil's Own in their goody-bags.) And finally, he continued striving to improve the martini, the cocktail of choice in his home, endlessly debating the merits of gins and garnishes with the Queen's Lounge bartender during crossings aboard the Queen Mary. His daughters and grand-daughters joined him as members in the invitation-only Order of the Olive to assist him in attaining the perfect cocktail. Born in Texarkana in 1926, Melvin Stanley Kusin was the first of three children of David Kusin and Elizabeth Ann Brody Kusin. Both were immigrants who arrived penniless and made good on the American Dream. David was born in the Ukrainian shtetl in 1895, and Ann, as she was known, was born in 1899 in Bialystok, capital of the Grodno province of Polish Russia. They married in Denver in 1924. Of Mel's two younger siblings, Gloria Celeste and Sherman Allen, only his sister survives him. During the Second World War, Mel fought in the Battle of the Bulge in General Patton's Third Army. He was a 60 mm mortar gunner in the 155th Armored Infantry Battalion of the 20th Armored Division commanded by General Albert Friedenthal. After the smoke cleared from a surprise battle in Bavaria, Mel notably dropped a keg of beer on his left foot, leaving his big toe a gnarled stub that his young children later found endlessly fascinating. After mustering out of the service, he remained in Paris for a year as the business manager of a dance band consisting of former GIs. His education at the University of Texas having been interrupted by the war, Mel continued afterward at the University of Illinois. "I could have gone to Harvard on the GI Bill," he was known to say, "but I picked Illinois instead because it had the best football team in America." At Illinois, he met Barbara Ann Wise, a petite dynamo from Chicago. They married after graduation and moved to Texarkana in early 1949, where Mel worked in the family's retail furniture business and its successive incarnations until moving to Dallas. He also built two bowling alleys with Gloria's husband, Leo Bishkin, in Texarkana and Charlotte, North Carolina. Barbara died in 2008. Besides his sister and daughter, Melvin is survived by his seven other children, David and Debbie Kusin, Michael and Janice Kusin, Gary and Karleen Kusin, and Roger Rowe, Melanie's husband. His companion Sally Unger also survives him, as do eight grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren. His private burial service at the family plot in the Temple Emanu-El cemetery was conducted by his son Michael with the assistance of the American Jewish War Veterans. A public memorial service will follow at Temple Emanu-El, conducted by Rabbi David Stern. Elizabeth Kusin Vivero and Eric Kusin, two of Mel's grandchildren, will deliver eulogies. The family would be grateful if those wishing to memorialize Mel would contribute to his and Barbara's favorite cause: The Permanent Endowment / The Texarkana Regional Arts & Humanities Center / in care of: Brian Goesl / 321 West Fourth Street / Texarkana, TX 75501.
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