Born: July 2, 1941
Died: June 1, 2006
Egils Melbardis was born in Riga, Latvia, son of August Kimenis and Irene Melbardis Kimenis. His father, a doctor, was arrested by the Soviets and deported to Siberia where he was incarcerated for many years. His mother died while he was a very young child. He was adopted by his grandparents on his mother's side and took on the Melbardis name.
In 1944 he, his grandparents, and his uncle and aunt Peter and Vera Cakars fled the returning Soviet Red army, eventually arriving in the United States in 1949. They settled in Oceanside, Long Island where their sponsors, another aunt and uncle, had settled after World War I. He became an American citizen. Nicknamed Gil or Mel, he spent his teenage years on Long Island and then prepared for Yale at Hotchkiss School. His Hotchkiss and Yale classmate Bill McMaster remembers him as a club athlete, active in a variety of sports, and a high ranking scholar.
At Yale, Gil was a member of Berkeley College. Freshman roommate John Fisher recalls that he was an enthusiastic member of the freshman fencing team of which he was the captain, and an epee specialist. He competed on the varsity in the 1960 season.
Gil transferred to the class of 1963 after the Fall of 1960 and ultimately graduated in 1964 but always maintained his affiliation with our class. Originally a physics major, he changed majors on his return to Yale and graduated with a B.A. in History. After his return, he was a non-resident member of Berkeley where he played touch football on the college squad.
Following graduation, Gil was employed in sales and marketing in the New York area until he joined the U.S. Army. He served from 1965 through 1967 and was stationed in Korea where he was in field artillery and intelligence. He was discharged as a Spec 5 and upon release, he returned to New York City. He worked briefly as a labor specialist for the New York State Employment Service, seeking placements for veterans and summer jobs for students.
In 1967, Gil met his future wife Maija Gross, also a Latvian refugee, through Latvian fraternal organizations. They married in 1968.
In 1968, he joined Levi-Strauss & Company in a management capacity and that work became his life's career. He served as a company representative for one year in Mexico. In the late 1970's he and his family relocated to Toronto where he spent 7 years and became head of Canadian operations for the company. In 1986 he returned to the San Francisco headquarter in a senior management position. He and his family settled in Mill Valley, in Marin County, just north of San Francisco. He retired from Levi-Strauss in 1996 and resided in Mill Valley the time of his death.
After retirement, Gil and his wife traveled extensively. "Gil had accumulated," she said, "so many American Airlines frequent flyer miles that we never were able to use them all." In addition to travel, his hobbies were reading, especially history, and music. He and his wife were regular subscribers to the San Francisco Symphony.
Gil was predeceased by his brother Maris Cakars in 1992, a renowned anti-war activist and pacifist who was editor of Win magazine and organized anti-war demonstrations in the 1960's and 1970's, and who was also arrested in Moscow by the KGB for passing out anti-war leaflets.
In addition to his wife of 38 years Maija, Gil is survived by two sons and two grandchildren. His eldest son, Martin (Marty) and wife Christine Melbardis reside in Marin, where he is employed in commercial real estate with their two daughters, Emily and new born Kelly. His younger son John, who had taught school in Korea and China, is now a Ph.D. candidate in biochemistry at Oregon State University in Corvallis.
The family requested that donations in Gil's memory be made to the Latvian Lutheran Church of Northern California, 425 Hoffman Avenue, San Francisco, 94114. He is interred in Fernwood Cemetery, Mill Valley.