Melvin Gaines, 1952-2013: Adversity didn’t defeat All-City back


Melvin Gaines, 60, a local sports star who counseled addicts as he pursued his own midlife recovery, died Friday in Mercy St. Anne Hospital.

Mr. Gaines of West Toledo had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and was on disability, his wife, Toni Battle Gaines, said. He formerly was a technician at Mercy St. Charles Hospital, where he made sure surgical instruments were in proper repair and order.

At DeVilbiss High School, he became an All-City back on the football team and led the league in scoring. He excelled in basketball and track. “Marvelous Mel Gaines,” one sportswriter called him. Before a Central Catholic High-DeVilbiss football game, another wrote, “Melvin Gaines is the athlete to watch.”

He was Toledo’s best all-around athlete, said Fred Henry, a friend for 55 years. “He did it all. He thought it was normal, what he was able to do. He didn’t understand the attention it garnered.”

Mr. Gaines transferred to Scott High his senior year, making him ineligible to play. Still, he got an athletic grant from the University of Toledo and was impressive on the freshman football team. He was academically ineligible to play the next season, and in 1972 was arrested on a heroin possession charge that was thrown out because police lacked a search warrant.

His college sports career ended as he held various jobs and used and sold drugs. His recovery began as he awaited sentencing on a drug-related conviction. He was steered to church by his mother, he told The Blade in 1997, and was guided by Bishop Duane Tisdale of Friendship Baptist Church. He took classes at UT.

“This church, this community, was supporting him in staying on track,” his wife said. His sister Pam added: “He let his deliverance from drug abuse be a testimony for other people and let them know there was a way out.”

His marriage to the former Victoria Galloway ended in divorce.

Surviving are his wife, Toni Battle Gaines, whom he married Nov. 6, 2004; sons, Melvin, Jr., and Jamel Gaines; stepsons, Jamaal Jackson and Damon Galloway; stepdaughter, Charmaine Galloway; mother and stepfather, Christine and Roosevelt Crenshaw; sisters, Sandra Valentine, Pam Gaines, Candace Johnson, and Denise Campbell; brother, Lance Crenshaw, and seven grandchildren.

Services will be at 6 p.m. today in Friendship Baptist Church, where a family hour will begin at 5 p.m. Arrangements are by the House of Day Funeral Service.