Mel Feuer, a former teacher and World War II veteran who was imprisoned in the Stalag 17 POW camp and spent his retirement mentoring local schoolchildren, died of cancer Monday in Los Angeles. He was 92.
Feuer was the father of L.A. City Atty. Mike Feuer; his death was announced by Rob Wilcox, community engagement and outreach director for Feuer's office.
For more than two decades, Feuer used his war experience in weekly visits to classrooms. He was bent and used a cane. But he exerted a Pied Piper-like spell over children, observed Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez this year. "He charges ahead and you have to hurry to keep up," Lopez wrote.
Melvin Feuer was born May 20, 1923, in Baltimore. His parents were Dorothy and Daniel Feuer. His mother, a pre-med student, was pregnant with him when she fled the Russian Revolution to come to the United States. She became an activist, the family said. His artist father was unable to escape with her; he remained in Russia.
Feuer entered the Army Air Corps in 1942 and served as a ball turret gunner in a B-24 bomber. During a mission targeting German submarine pens in France, his plane was shot down and he was imprisoned. He had played the violin since childhood, the family said; in the camp, he played it to raise morale.
He and other POWs were marched across Austria. They were liberated by American troops. He received a master's degree at the University of Redlands, became a teacher in San Bernardino schools and retired as a principal there in 1988. Three years later, he volunteered for a mentoring program called Community Circle. At Horace Mann Middle School and Castle Heights Elementary in the Beverlywood area, he used his war experiences to teach children lessons about good character.