12/22/1966 - 07/29/2023
Service Date: 08/05/2023
Service Time: 4:00PM
Service Location: Gilbert Memorial Park Cemetery Funeral Home 2100 E. Queen Creek Rd. Gilbert, AZ 85297

Melanie Katherine Rowe, age 56, passed away peacefully Saturday, July 29th, 2023, in Gilbert, AZ, after a battle with lung cancer. Her longtime companion, Heath Sheppard, was by her side.

Melanie was born in Inglewood, CA, on December 22, 1966, to parents Clifton and Gloria Whaley. When Melanie was 3 years old, the family moved across the country to Virginia. In 1974, they returned to California for good; first, making their home in Buellton and later moving to Solvang. Melanie graduated from Santa Ynez Valley Union High School in 1984. As a teenager, she worked at Mortensen’s Bakery. Even then, she had a penchant for shenanigans and the ability to make her mark on the people around her. She went on to Santa Barbara Business College, where she did quite well – except for Accounting, which, ironically, turned out to be her future career path. In the late 1990s, she moved from California to Arizona. Melanie worked at Nordstrom, then moved on to Accounts Payable at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, followed by stints at Aprisa, St. Luke’s Medical Center, and Mountain Vista Medical Center. Everywhere she worked, she left behind a trail of new friends. She finished her career at Arizona Spine & Joint Hospital, where she was known by all and loved by many.

As anyone who knew Melanie would suspect, she was a bit wild in her youth. Once during Fiesta Week in Santa Barbara (sometimes described as merely an excuse to drink), Melanie and a friend had misplaced their driver’s licenses. At their young age, they could not set foot in a bar without identification. Melanie, being a resourceful young woman, came up with the brilliant idea to bring their yearbooks along to prove they were of age. The two walked around with yearbooks in hand all night long. Impressed by Melanie’s ingenuity, not one bouncer turned them away.

Melanie has a friend who described her as a “burnt marshmallow” – crusty on the outside and all gooey in the middle. It’s a fitting description. She could give you a scary look, but in truth, she was an approachable social butterfly who could (and would) talk to anyone about anything. No matter how short or (most likely) long the encounter, she was sure to make an impression. Everyone in her large circle of friends has at least one “Melanie story.”  Things happened to her that could only happen to her.  When she was recounting her latest exploit, the listener would inevitably think, “Of course this happened to Melanie!”

Most people keep notebooks and folders in their overhead work cabinet, but Melanie kept a fully stocked pantry, which was fondly referred to as Meli’s Deli (complete with a hand-painted sign made by a coworker). She prepared made-to-order sandwiches from her work desk, delivered them, and then circled back to make sure the sandwich was indeed to their liking. Anyone was welcome to help themselves to her food and heaven forbid if you tried to pay her for something you ate! Whenever she saw a need, she tried to make it right. She often went out of her way for people she didn’t even know. She once made a special trip to buy some milkshakes for random kids playing in her neighborhood. She knew the parents who parked outside her house every day to pick up their kids from school and let them park in her driveway. Another time, she made friends with a homeless gentleman and visited him regularly for conversation and a meal.

Melanie had a deep-seated love of animals. No matter how much you think you love your pets, Melanie loved them more. She was a proud “foster fail,” who couldn’t help but adopt the dog she was fostering. She often confessed that her dogs ate better than she did (pet meals were cooked from scratch). The food was so good that Heath once shared it with the dog he was babysitting! Melanie was not ashamed to admit that her dog, Billy, was her all-time favorite and “love of my life.” He had been abandoned by his previous owners and left in their home to fend for himself. How could she not take him in? No one ever captured her heart like Billy.

To be loved by Melanie was a special thing. Once given, her love was deep and without reservation. She took exceptional care of the people she loved without seeking to benefit herself. She possessed beauty, grace, and a faith that she expressed not with words, but by her consistent and considerate service to those who had the good fortune to know her. She will be missed.

Melanie is survived by her mother, Gloria Whaley, sister, Heather Weatherby, six nephews, one niece, and a great nephew. Melanie was preceded in death by her father, Clifton Whaley, whom she loved and missed dearly. Melanie is also survived by her dogs Fiona and Rudy, and predeceased by her dogs Zoe and Billy, as well as her cats, Pickles and Scrappy.

A memorial service will be held at 4:00 PM on August 5, 2023, at Gilbert Memorial Park Cemetery and Funeral Home, 2100 East Queen Creek Road, Gilbert AZ 85297.

In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to Hospice of the Valley or Friends for Life Animal Rescue in Gilbert, AZ.


  • Always and forever my sister and best friend. Love you Mel.

  • Angela Brasile

    Melanie will forever be missed, and we will keep her in our hearts. My condolences to Heath and the family for this great loss of such a beautiful soul.

  • Melanie was the kindest person I have ever met. She always had a story to share with me and always made me laugh and always had tea that was always between me and her. (Makes me giggle even now) I will miss you Mel and thank you for the example you were to me of kindness and just being YOU!!! My prayers are with your family for peace in their hearts to console them for the loss of you. I truly believe that families and friends are forever, till we meet again my sweet friend. Love Lisa

  • What a beautiful and funny tribute to an incredible woman. I had to laugh about trying to reimburse her for anything in her work “pantry” because I made that mistake once. While we only worked together for a short while, I will never forget the times we talked and laughed. She could be counted on for an encouraging or kind word or a funny story. A true blessing and shining light for those lucky enough to spend time with her. May her loved ones find some peace in their memories.

  • Lee and Cathy Vega

    Please accept our deepest condolences on the loss of Melanie. Know that our thoughts and prayers are with you.

  • Jennifer Hernandez (Grebb)

    Oh Melanie……what a beautiful girl. A true original, who marched to the beat of her own drum.

    Reading Melanie’s loving tribute brought me back to our wild child 80’s……listening to music, experimenting with make-up and hair and creating a little chaos.

    I remember her bedroom was filled with posters of Duran Duran and Culture Club … .big hair, make-up and alternate fashion were emerging from the MTV era and we were all in! One-time Melanie let me cut her gorgeous hair and she did not return to school for some time…..let’s just say being a hairstylist was not in the cards for me.

    So many fun memories…….as I drove into work today, low and behold Culture Club came on the radio…. Karma Chameleon…. sparks flew through me and a smile…..forever thankful for our time together.


    Jennifer Hernandez (Grebb)

  • Traci Rodriguez

    I will Truly Miss her Beautiful Face and Heart she was an Amazing Woman. May you Rest in Peace my Beautiful friend 😇

  • It was wonderful to meet her and work with her. I will miss her avocado toast and sharing stories in the lunchroom. She had an awesome personality!

  • Mel and I became best friends in 7th grade. When we were mad at each other we would sit on our roof tops and look over at each other when we were ready to make up. I taught her to drive, it was a manual Chevette. As she stalled and hopped forward panicking as multiple cars were honking behind us I could barely get the words out over laughing that it was a wedding procession. She also crashed that car ( no injuries) and I took the blame. The repair shop made an error and we got an $800 refund. We immediately used that for a trip to San Francisco. It was the Super Bowl wknd so we ended up in a triangle shaped hotel room that the bed touched each of the walls. Melanie always had her big black tote with no less than 80 cassettes in it at a time. I drove the car, she ran the stereo. We took many trips to LA, OC once I picked her up so we could drop one friend in LA and pick another up in OC She was in her dads oversized pajamas and we agreed she didn’t need to change. The car broke down in Calabasas and she was in those pjs for 2 days after we got a ride to my apt in SB before getting her back to Solvang. In 2003 we had words, lines drawn and we didn’t talk for these past 20 years. This time we both just let the time pass. Too much time. I’m so sorry I wasn’t there for Mel when she was sick. It meant so much to me to be at her memorial to say goodbye. I had some really great pics to post but the upload feature is not functioning.

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