If you find yourself having breakfast at the Fred’s Market Restaurant in Riverview on any given morning, you may be in the presence of a WWII hero. Longtime Riverview resident and 96-year-old Army and Air Force veteran Hollis Mellon has his own reserved table and his photo on the table cards promoting military discounts at the restaurant.
For six years, Mellon, and sometimes friends and family and even his wife of 68 years, Doris, when she was still alive, would eat breakfast daily at 8 a.m. and most of the time dinner as well at about 4 p.m.
Mellon was born and raised the youngest of a ‘handful’ of kids—about five—on a cow farm in Indiana. He joined the Army in 1943 and landed at Normandy as part of the 5th Infantry in 1945. He still carries a souvenir from the war—a piece of shrapnel in his hip.
After returning home from the war, work was hard to find, so Mellon enlisted in the Air Force and was identified through skills tests to be ‘pretty smart,’ and so, by 1950, he was assigned to a special IBM program to learn ‘machines.’
These machines led to him becoming a computer engineer, and after leaving the Air Force, Mellon and his young family moved to California, where he worked for a major insurance company for 25 years.
“I interviewed with NASA at one point while I was in California, and it sounded like an interesting job,” said Mellon, who has an amazing personality and a whimsy about him. “But they couldn’t guarantee job security, so I stayed put.”
After moving to Florida with his wife and three kids in 1975, Mellon offered his services to the City of Tampa and helped with infrastructure plans until his formal retirement in 1988.
Since then, the spry and energetic veteran lives alone in his home, he mows his own 3-acre lawn and loves spending time chatting over the breakfast table at Fred’s.
When asked about the secret to his longevity, Mellon said, “I do believe that hard concentration can help lead to a good life,” and added that he reads the Cadillac Modern Encyclopedia regularly and Googles things to learn.
He works on his genealogy and recently bought himself a new iWatch because he still loves technology. In fact, he also loves watches, has an antique violin and even his own Pac-Man arcade game.
Mellon has spent his retirement traveling the world and playing golf. He’s played at St. Andrews in Ireland three times and also enjoyed the game on almost all of the Hawaiian Islands, New Zealand and more.
Mellon has become such a fixture at Fred’s that he was invited to matriarch Evelyn Johnson’s birthday party last year, and in August, the restaurant hosts his birthday party.
Mellon said he likes to come to Fred’s “eight days a week because the breakfast here is good.”
Mellon has three children—two girls and a boy—and about eight grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.
Of his 45 years in Riverview, Mellon said the traffic sure has changed and for the future, he’d like to keep mowing his yard, and he shared an exclusive invite to his home to play a game of 8-ball on his billiards table.
Also, he joked that he’d have to be compensated for his time for the interview because “I’ve been told I’m the smartest man in the world,” said Mellon.
And, with an active life at 96 years and 4 months old and a daily breakfast at Fred’s, I think he might be right!