Doing what he wants to do
If there is a problem at the Lansing Activity Center, chances are Melvin Derritt will fix it.
As a facility operator, Derritt is responsible for much of the upkeep of the building, but he also manages the Boy Scouts' meeting rooms upstairs and defuses any hot tempers on the basketball court.
But most days, Derritt said, are pretty quiet.
Much of his day is spent "making sure the kids mind each other when they come from school, you know. Ain't terrorizin' the building," he said, chuckling.
Ironically, when Derritt was a boy, his family belonged to a Pentecostal church that forbade him from participating in the activities he now makes possible for Lansing youths.
"My father kept us in church so as we were growing up as kids we'd stay out of trouble," Derritt said.
"We couldn't play sports in school. It's a Pentecostal, Apostolic religion. They (are) just real strict ... I couldn't do what I want to do. I was too young then to do what I wanted to do anyhow."
When Derritt graduated from Leavenworth High School, he finally got closer to his independence, but he still had to wait to do what he wanted.
"I left Leavenworth when I was 17 years old, when I graduated in 1974," Derritt said.
"I moved to Oklahoma - Tulsa, Oklahoma, to be specific. I was going to Spartan Aeronautical School to fly planes and work on planes, something my dad kinda wanted me to do. It just didn't work out."
It was a dream that was more his father's than his own. Years later, Derritt returned to Leavenworth, and though he's not sure what brought him back, it may have been Kansas City's music.
"I listen to jazz, blues," Derritt said. "I like all kinds. Mix it up. Contemporary.
"I always kinda liked jazz. It's a smooth sound and it kinda just mellows me out : I go down to Kansas City occasionally to go to a jazz show."
Name: Melvin Derritt
Address: 655 Pennsylvania St., Leavenworth
Occupation: Facilities Operator II
Graduate of: Leavenworth Senior High School, 1974
Family: Jatoya, daughter; Melvin, Jr., son
What brought you to Lansing? My job
What do you like most about Lansing? Close-knit community
What do you do for fun? Watch sports and listen to jazz/blues
What's the best advice you ever received? Be the best you can be.
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