Benedictine Brother Melvin Tichota lassoed hearts at Mount Michael

Benedictine Brother Melvin Tichota of Mount Michael Abbey in Elkhorn spent three years helping a friend on a Sandhills ranch, but that experience stayed with him for the rest of his life.

He died March 27 at age 77, after just one day in hospice care, from apparent congestive heart failure.

He had donated his body for medical study, so a memorial Mass will be held at a later date with interment at the Mount Michael Abbey Cemetery, Benedictine Father Louis Sojka said.

Brother Mel, as he was known, honed his trick-rope spinning skills and “relished life under the vast expanse of prairie and open sky,” Father Louis wrote in a tribute. “The Sandhills remained a favorite vacation spot.”

Putting his cowboy talents to work, Brother Mel led the horse program at Mount Michael’s summer camp and mesmerized crowds at Mount Michael Benedictine High School basketball games with his rope tricks.

He even coated some ropes with fluorescent paint and spun them under dimmed lights accompanied by country music.

The hard-working, ever prayerful monk “had a deep compassion for people, for nature, and for animals” and forged many deep, lasting friendships, Father Louis said.

Students and alumni sought him out, Father Louis said. Brother Mel sent postcards, sometimes handmade, to countless people.

Brother Mel taught classes on Hebrew and Christian Scriptures to freshmen, and was a bus driver for the school’s sports teams for many years. He also served as a substitute teacher, moderator for the school’s work study program and a helper in athletics.

Born in Howells, he attended St. Wenceslaus School in Dodge and graduated from Mount Michael’s precursor, St. John Vianney Seminary, in 1960. He then earned a bachelor of arts degree from Conception Seminary College in Conception, Missouri.

For a time, he helped his brother, Francis, on their family’s farm. Then he went to help his friend on the Sandhills ranch.

In 1978, Brother Mel returned to Mount Michael, professing his first vows in 1980.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Joe and Martha (Lennamann) Tichota, brother Francis, and brother-in-law Martin Grubar Jr. Survivors include his sister, Maureen Grubar, nieces, nephews and the Mount Michael Abbey community.

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