PRINCETON — Melvin Lee "Mel" Hult, 79, of Princeton, passed away Wednesday, July 18, 2012, at home.
He was born on Dec. 24, 1932, in Princeton to Arvid and Beulah (Larson) Hult. Melvin married Dianne Rosenquist on June 15, 1957, in Princeton. She died on Nov. 7, 2000.
He graduated from Princeton High School in 1952, where he played football from 1948 to 1952: defense, offense and linebacker, and never missed a game. He was four years varsity, earned all-conference and honorable mention all-state team. He also played basketball and track for four years and baseball three and one-half years. Mel attended Illinois Valley Community College for one year and was then drafted into Korean conflict. He served two years in the U.S. Army from 1953 to 1955, stationed in Germany, played football for 18 months and was honorably discharged as corporal in February 1955.
Mel owned and operated Princeton Shoe Repair on South Main Street in the late '50s and early '60s. He became a Princeton Police Department patrolman in October 1961 where he worked for 13 years until he was elected sheriff of Bureau County in November 1974 and served for nine years. He served 13 years with the Princeton Fire Department while he was a Princeton Police patrolman and discontinued his service when he was elected sheriff. During his term as sheriff, for four years in a row, the Bureau County Jail was awarded compliance with the detention standards and services according to the Illinois Department of Corrections. In 1982 Mel was hired as chief of police for the city of Princeton until Dec. 31, 1999, retiring after 38 years in law enforcement.
During his lifetime, he spent many years working with Princeton youth, including Little League baseball coach and president of Little League Baseball. Hult, Ken Epperson and Bob Young were the founders of the Princeton Youth Football, originally participating in the Peoria league and later gained support from local business organizations, service clubs and private sources to form a Princeton football league. He served as president of the Football Board for many years and continued service with the Princeton Youth Football League. Mel was awarded Jaycees Outstanding Young Man Award and in 1993 was recognized for outstanding contributions to the Drug Abuse Prevention Program.
He worked the PHS Football Friday Night "Chain Gang" running the down markers for home games. Along with other members of the community, he was part of the first group to paint the Tiger Paws on the streets of Princeton.
He was a Bureau County Fair Board Member for 22 years from October 1982 to October 2004. He served as a director, assistant director and retired as the secretary which he became in 1985. He worked many hours making sure things ran smoothly and that the grounds were in tip top shape. He was very proud of the Bureau County Fairgrounds. Also, he worked with the Bureau County Speedway for many years.
He was a member of Princeton Optimist Club for 10 years and served as president for one year. The club was the first organization to buy two portable radios for the Princeton Police Department in the 1970s. He was a member of the VFW since he served in the Army. Mel was a current member of the Princeton Elks Club, and the Illinois and National Police Association, and a member of the Illinois Sheriffs' Association and the American Legion. He was involved with the Salvation Army for 25 years for which he was in charge of the Bureau County area, helping people purchase groceries, gas and medicines.
He was also appointed chairman of the Merit Commission of the Bureau County Sheriff's Department after Greg Johnson was elected sheriff. This was his way of staying involved with county after becoming chief. Mel was the recipient of the Princeton Pride Award in 2009. Hult was also an advocate the National Safety Council for Children and received numerous plaques for his work.
Mel is survived by his children, Stacey (David) Headley of Princeton and Chad Hult of Wheaton; three grandchildren, Alexia Hult and Caleb Headley of Princeton, and Jessica Headley of Portland, Ore.; and numerous nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his parents; wife; two sisters, Marilyn and Gladys, both of Montana; and five brothers, Chuck, Don, Dick, Jack and Bob.
Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Thursday at the Norberg Memorial Home, Princeton, with Pastor Ken Wilson and Pastor Laura Root officiating. Burial will follow in Oakland Cemetery, Princeton.
The family will receive friends from 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Norberg Memorial Home.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be directed to family for charitable disbursement.
Online condolences may be sent to www.norbergfh.com.