The train pulled into Salt Lake City early that morning with Schenectady resident Morris Melitzer and friends on their way through to Chicago from the West Coast.
The stop was only for a few precious hours. Meeting Melitzer at the station, a longtime friend recalled, was his brother Max.
The two went off, caught up, and then Morris was on his way.
The two kept in touch, but only infrequently, usually on Morris’ birthday. When Morris Melitzer passed away in April 2010, the two hadn’t spoken in about eight months.
When Morris Melitzer passed away, he left behind a good-sized estate, about $100,000, and, along with it, instructions that it go to his brother.
Problem was, Morris’ few remaining relatives didn’t know where Max was. Morris believed he had gone back to Salt Lake City, and that he also may have been homeless.
This past weekend, Ballston Spa resident Richard Goldfarb, a cousin of the Melitzer brothers who was handling the estate, formally got word that Max had been found.
A private investigator hired through Goldfarb’s attorney had located him on the streets of Salt Lake City, formally notifying him of his inheritance.
“I’m glad that we finally found him,” Goldfarb told The Daily Gazette on Monday. “We hope this is the start of a new life for him.”
Goldfarb said this past weekend was the culmination of more than a year of searching for Max to fulfill Morris Melitzer’s wish that his estate go to him.
Exactly how much Max Melitzer was aware of his brother’s passing and estate proceedings was unclear Monday, though. Surrogate’s court paperwork suggests he might have been aware as early as May 2010, the month after Morris’ death. And an attorney listed for Max Melitzer in paperwork confirmed Max knew but declined to comment to The Daily Gazette further. Goldfarb meanwhile suggested Max wasn’t fully aware of the waiting inheritance.
Regardless, Goldfarb said Max Melitzer has been found and the homeless man is working to get the proper paperwork and identification in order to receive his inheritance.
Among the first steps is getting a proper identification, Goldfarb said, adding that Max had asked him for help getting a copy of his birth certificate to do just that.
Morris Melitzer passed away April 16, 2010, at Ellis Hospital, after a long fight with pancreatic cancer. He was 66.
He’d worked the line at General Electric. He also served in Vietnam. He was buried at Saratoga National Cemetery in the town of Saratoga.
Morris’ last few weeks were spent in the hospital, where Goldfarb visited him frequently. His last years were also spent in a place that wasn’t his home, at an apartment at 10 Mill Lane, downtown.
The Strong Street house he had lived in, and family had lived in for decades, was destroyed in October 2005 in a gas line accident. A contractor installing sidewalks and curbs along Strong Street was faulted for causing the leak. What kind of compensation Melitzer received was unclear Monday.
But, along with the longtime family home, Melitzer lost the fruits of a lifetime of collecting.
That he met up with Max on that trip in the 1990s at the Salt Lake City train station was perhaps fitting. Trains fascinated Melitzer the most.
Destroyed with his home was an irreplaceable collection of train memorabilia that included old railroad timetables from the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s, railroad dining car china and shelf after shelf of railroading books.
Melitzer was unhurt. He was at the downtown train station at the time of the blast.
A small community of train buffs may have been his closest friends.
He would frequently go on organized trips, and even go on train trips just because he could, longtime friend Russ Rylko of Hyde Park, Mass., told The Daily Gazette on Monday. Rylko is president of the Boston-based Mystic Valley Railway Society, a group to which Morris Melitzer belonged.
It was on a trip with Rylko that Morris saw his brother in the 1990s. The Melitzers also had one other sibling, Beatrice Melitzer Wilcox. She passed away in 2004, a resident of Largo, Fla.
Their father, David Melitzer, worked as a conductor for the old New York Central Railroad and was the source for Morris’ fascination with the rails.
“Morris was not one to talk too much about family, at all,” Rylko recalled. “Morris basically stayed on the topic of loving trains. He was an avid supporter of Amtrak.”
But his sister’s passing affected him, Rylko recalled, as did the loss of his home.
After the explosion, club members sent him a small collection of books. “He loved that,” Rylko said. “He was in tears, he just loved that whole idea that people were thinking of him.”
Told of Morris’ bequest to his brother, Rylko called it noble.
A Utah-based private investigator located Max for Goldfarb on Saturday. The investigator, David Lundberg, told the Salt Lake City-based Deseret News he found Max in a city park, pushing a grocery cart filled with his belongings.
He also recently had been beaten up, and his money and watch taken, Lundberg told the Deseret News. Lundberg declined to comment when contacted by The Daily Gazette on Monday, saying he needed to talk to family to comment further.
“I want to make sure we get him back to New York, hopefully with his family,” Lundberg told the Deseret News. “Get him in a situation where he has a decent place to live, food, pay his medical costs. He can get on with his life and enjoy himself for a change.”
Goldfarb’s attorney put him in touch with Max Melitzer, and they’ve spoken a couple of times since.
“He’s a lot better than he was a week ago,” Goldfarb said. “He’s very appreciative.”
Early plans for the inheritance, Goldfarb said Max told him, include maybe buying an RV and going cross-country.
Goldfarb said the effort to find Max and ensure he got his inheritance was the only thing to do.
“It’s important to give the rightful person what he has coming,” Goldfarb said. “That’s what it amounts to. He’s the rightful person and he’s the one who should receive it.”