Cover photo for Melvin "Mel" Alexander Rakowski's Obituary
Melvin "Mel" Alexander Rakowski Profile Photo

Melvin "Mel" Alexander Rakowski

September 22, 1928 — November 14, 2020

Melvin (Mel) Alexander Rakowski passed away on November 14, 2020 after a short illness. He was 92.
Mel was born September 22, 1928 in Toledo, Ohio to parents Alex and Helen (Zawodny) Rakowski. He grew up in Toledo and graduated from Woodward High School in 1946. As a youth, he worked in his father’s auto body repair garage. He married Dorothy V. (Huntley) Rakowski in 1950. They remained married for 56 years until Dorothy’s death in 2006.

Outside of his time in the army, Mel spent his entire life in the Toledo and Bedford Township, Michigan areas.

In 1952 Mel was drafted into the army during the Korean War. He received radio training in the Signal Corp at Camp Gordon in Georgia. He was then sent to Korea where he worked with a team setting up field radio communications sometimes on the front lines. He received two bronze stars for valor. He also worked on communications to support the Peace Talks at Panmunjom and the prisoner exchanges with North Korea. Anyone who knew Mel, knew he had a very entrepreneurial spirit. He used that talent in Korea to get extra food and medicine for some villages he was near to and was always proud of that. He also began his lifelong study of Judo in Korea. He always had good things to say about the Korean people and nothing at all good to say about war or the governments that waged them

After returning from Korea, Mel went to work at Jeep (Willy’s Overland at the time), holding several jobs in the office and in research. Most notably, he was a programmer for IBM Mainframe computers in the late 1950’s into the early 1960’s and a photographer in the research department in the early 1970’s. While at Jeep, Mel founded two businesses, Rak-Now Inc., a manufacturing business that made vinyl cue stick cases and throw pillows and a t-shirt screen printing business. He loved figuring out how to build and manufacture various products.

Mel was always too independent to enjoy working for anyone but himself so in 1972 he quit Jeep and founded Mel-Kay Studio. The studio was well known in the Toledo area and did Portrait, Wedding, Commercial and Industrial photography. It was first located on Lewis Ave. and later moved to Jackmen Rd. Mel always loved technology and was an early adopter of digital photography. He successfully converted the studio from film to digital photography in the early 1990’s. Mel ran the studio for more than 40 years retiring from the business at 84 only because his eyes weren’t up to it anymore.

Mel was active in several business and charitable organizations. He was a founding member of Professional Photographers of Northwest Ohio and served a term as president. He also served on the board of directors for the Professional Photographers of Ohio. He was a member of the Trilby Rotary Club and served two terms as president there. With the Trilby Rotary, he ran a project for medical supply donations. He personally delivered a large quantity of medical supplies to a hospital in Georgetown, Guyana as a result of the work.

Judo was a lifelong interest of Mel’s. After starting to study Judo in Korea, he went on to earn a second-degree black belt. He was a founding member of three non-profit Judo Clubs in Toledo, International Judo at the International Institute, The Toledo Judo Club, and Judan Judo. Judan Judo was founded together with several Toledo Police Officers. The goal of the organization was to help troubled youth turn their lives around through involvement in a positive activity.

Mel also loved adventurous outdoor activities. His favorite places were the Smokey Mountains, the Lake Michigan beaches and dunes or any of the mountain or desert areas of California and the west. Summer family vacations usually involved camping somewhere beautiful. He loved hiking and doing photography in nature. When he was 60 years old, he started doing cave exploration and cave photography. He was a member of the Central Ohio Grotto, a caving club based in Columbus, and did his caving primarily in south eastern and south-central Kentucky. He loved the challenge presented by cave photography. He also did some early work with the US Forest Service to help them set up cave management for the Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky.

Mel is preceded in death by his beloved wife Dorothy, his parents Alex and Helen and his three sisters and brothers-in-law, Irene and Albert Brown, Cecil and Harvey Boldt, and Virginia and Alvin Czerniak.

Surviving are son, Mark A. (Betty) Rakowski, daughter, Holly (Tom) Monroe, grandchildren, Michael Monroe, Jesse Monroe, Robert Monroe, Steven Daniels, Lisa Daniels, Michael Sheldon and Andrew Sheldon. Great grandchildren are Katie Daniels and Daniel Horetski, and great-great grandchild Callie Daniels. There are also many nieces, nephews and cousins including his nephew Tom Kleparek who was more like a younger brother to Mel.

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