This could be your story. Or that of your daughter, sister, wife, mother, partner, best friend… Let’s eradicate cervical cancer within a generation, so no more women have their lives cut cruelly short by this terrible disease.
Melitta loved life and lived it to the full. She cared about people, animals and our planet. And she engaged. She lived with purpose. And in doing so helped give us purpose. Melitta leaves behind dozens, perhaps hundreds, of people whose lives were enriched by knowing her, and who are the poorer now because she is no longer with us.
Sometimes our world transforms when we aren't expecting it. In June 1987 I walked into an office in the Ministry of Agriculture, in Lilongwe, Malawi, to ask for some data, and I met Melitta Alevropoulos. With a beautiful smile, and strong views, in a bright yellow dress! Melitta undertook farm surveys in Malawi, under the Voluntary Service Overseas program. Later that week we played tennis, and within a few months Melitta had joined me on the South Atlantic island of St Helena, and July 1989 we married.
Melitta was born in London in 1962. She was the middle of three sisters; between her older sister Sasha and her younger sister Tanya. Melitta went to the French Lycee in London and then studied agricultural economics at Aberystwyth, where she spent a year working on a sheep farm. After university Melitta headed to work in Malawi.
In October 1990 Melitta had our first baby, Emily, born on St Helena. Three months later, Melitta and baby Emily and I were in Botswana, staying in the house of an understanding friend for a 4-month work assignment. Later that year we moved to Mbabane, Swaziland for 2 years. In late 1992 our second child, Nic, was born, in Swaziland.
In Malawi, St Helena, Botswana and Swaziland, two of Melitta’s passions converged–nature and photography–and she took dozens of photos of the local flora and fauna. In July 1993 we moved to Bethesda, Maryland. Melitta did some evaluation work for the World Bank and worked with other parents to support the local French school, the Lycee Rochambeau, which our children attended.
In 1996, Georgie was born in Washington. Melitta gave up work to look after the three children. Between 2001 and 2004 the family moved to Poland for 3 years, where Melitta took an MSc in Environmental Science.
Upon her return to Bethesda, she engaged in many environmental and community activities. She volunteered at “Amazonia” at Washington’s National Zoo, served on Montgomery County’s advisory board for environmental issues, instituted a neighbourhood clean up on Earth Day, fostered greyhounds, participated in monthly analysis of streams to check for aquatic life and demonstrated against the Keystone pipeline.
She set up a neighbourhood reading group, worked in a community organic garden, worked in a farmers’ market, trained a standard poodle and a Shi-Tzu, volunteered at local school events… and spent thousands of hours being a wonderful mother and wife and friend. Melitta loved nature and our planet. Her hero was Charles Darwin. And Melitta loved people; she had dozens of friends, all through her life. People were drawn to Melitta; she empathized, expressed opinions, argued, made you laugh. She made everyone feel alive.
In October 2012, after a standard screening test, Melitta was ordered by the doctor to have an emergency hysterectomy because cancer had been detected. The operation was followed by chemo and radiation treatment, but the cancer had metastasized. In September 2015, Melitta died. We celebrated her life at Amazonia, in Washington’s National Zoo. It was the right place, for a remarkable, much-loved woman.