American Veteran 04

Melvin Junior Armstrong

February 7, 1932 ~ March 27, 2024 (age 92) 92 Years Old


Melvin Junior Armstrong passed away on March 27, 2024, in Madera, California. He was a beloved
husband, father, grandfather, uncle, and friend, leaving behind cherished memories of a long, well-lived

Mel, affectionately known as Melvin “P” (P for Precious), was 92 years old. He was born on February 7,
1932, in Blanchard, Oklahoma, as the second of four children to Edwin Armstrong and Ada Lewelling.
At the age of 4, Mel, along with his brothers Alvie and Richard, moved to California with his maternal
grandmother and uncles following his mother's death in childbirth. Despite facing hardships during the
Depression era, including hunger and barefoot days, they found solace in the company of their Lewelling
cousins. Mel often spoke of fun times shared with his favorites, Cecil and Billy. Throwing rocks at their
teachers and making slingshots was also mentioned in connection with these names. At 13, Mel ventured
out on his own, bidding farewell to Jefferson Elementary's one-room schoolhouse to work on a large cattle
ranch in the hills of Clovis. There, alongside other cowboys, he herded cattle and mended fences.
After his time on the ranch, Mel moved onto construction and honed his skills operating earth-moving rigs
and truck cranes, contributing to dam-building projects in Washington State. He later enlisted in the Navy
in 1950, serving aboard the USS Manchester during the Korean Conflict. Mel served as a radio operator
and fireman, earning several medals and citations, including Good Conduct, National Defense, Korean
Service, and United Nations honors. He was honorably discharged in 1955.

Returning to civilian life, Mel resumed his career in construction and met his beloved wife, Betsy
Sandbothe, with whom he shared 65 years of marriage until her passing the previous year. Together, they
traversed California, following Mel's construction jobs. Mel contributed to numerous highway overpass
bridge constructions and participated in building the San Luis Reservoir. He took pride in his 70-year
membership in the Operating Engineers Union.

In 1964, Mel and Betsy settled in Madera, where they raised their children, Karen and Randy, and their
cherished Appaloosa Horses on their ranch on Avenue 14. They generously shared their passion for
horses with the community, mentoring numerous children in horsemanship. Upon retirement, Mel and
Betsy downsized to Bonadelle Ranchos, where Mel became a familiar presence in the neighborhood with
his bobcat drilling service. He continued to offer his assistance and guidance to others, embodying his
values of hard work, kindness, and humor. Mel was a devoted grandfather to his grandson, Aronne
Bottorff, fondly referred to themselves as the two “Podnas.” Their bond was evident in the countless
memories shared, from rides in Mel’s bobcat bucket to heartfelt conversations about life.

Mel will be remembered for his strong work ethic, generosity, infectious laughter, and his unique phrases
known as “Mel-isms” among friends. He is survived by his daughter, Karen, and son-in-law, Jeff Bottorff;
grandson, Aronne Bottorff, and his wife, Victoria Owen; son, Randy Armstrong, and daughter-in-law,
Cathy Green; half-brother, Calvin Armstrong; and numerous nieces and nephews. He is preceded in
death by his beloved wife, Betsy; father, Edwin; mother, Ada; brothers, Alvie and Richard; and stillborn
sister, Joyce.

Visitation will be held on Tuesday, April 2, 2024, from 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm at Jay Chapel. Interment will
take place on Wednesday, April 3, 2024, at 1:30 pm at San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery in Santa

In lieu of flowers, the family kindly requests donations be made to Hinds Hospice in Mel’s honor.

As we mourn the loss of this remarkable man, let us also celebrate the joy and love he brought into our
lives. May the lessons he imparted guide us always, and may his spirit remain forever in our hearts. In the
words of Mel, “When selling a horse, you’ll cry 'til he gets to the end of the driveway.”


April 2, 2024

2:00 PM to 6:00 PM
Jay Chapel
1121 Roberts Ave
Madera, CA 93637

Graveside Service
April 3, 2024

1:30 PM
San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery
32053 W. McCabe Road
Santa Nella, CA 95322


San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery
32053 W. McCabe Road
Santa Nella, CA 95322


Hinds Hospice
2490 West Shaw Avenue, Suite 101, Fresno CA 93711


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