"That was why he was in such demand," said his wife, the former Suzanne Malseed. "He didn't talk about anything."
Melvin had one other important secret: his barbecue sauce recipe. It was so delicious, fans of his barbecued chicken and ribs would beg him to tell them how he made it.
He never told.
Melvin Ellis, who lectured on criminal justice and police subjects at St. Joseph's University, a handyman who turned his home in Sicklerville, N.J., into a showplace, and a devoted fan of Philadelphia sports teams, died Jan. 14 of heart and kidney failure. He was 75.
Wilson Goode said he had the highest regard for Melvin Ellis as both an investigator and a friend.
"He did a terrific job for me," Goode said. "He was a great police officer and a great investigator. He was loyal, tough, fair and honest.
"He was respected by his fellow officers and he was fun to be around. He kept me safe in my office."
After Melvin retired, he and Goode continued to see one another, visiting at each other's homes. In fact, Goode gave Melvin's wife away at their marriage ceremony on May 23, 1987.
Melvin was born and raised in South Philadelphia, the son of Lillian and Wesley Ellis. He graduated from South Philadelphia High School and later took courses in criminal justice at St. Joseph's University.
He joined the police force at age 20 and worked as a patrol officer before being promoted to detective. He worked in the major crimes division before going to work for Goode - mayor from 1984 to 1992.
When Ted Kennedy came to Philly, Melvin got the job of watching out for him. They developed a friendly relationship, his wife said.
"He had great admiration for Ted Kennedy," his wife said. "He believed in him."
What did they talk about? Anybody's guess.
He often worked for Sinatra on his own. He called the singer "Mr. S."
"He thought he was wonderful," Suzanne said. "He loved and respected Mr. S."
Again, their conversations were his secret.
After he retired 15 years ago, Melvin had their house built in Sicklerville and devoted himself to improving it.
"His house was his hobby," his wife said. "He put in a new kitchen and new bathroom and other improvements."
Melvin also enjoyed entertaining family, friends and neighbors at his popular backyard barbecues, and watching Philly sports teams go at it on TV, with an occasional visit to the stadium to watch the Phillies.
"He would be glued to the TV all winter, watching sports," his wife said.
Besides his wife, he is survived by a son, David; a daughter, Tracy Lloyd; two grandchildren; and Geraldine Byrd, an aunt's daughter who was raised as his sister.
Services: 11 a.m. tomorrow at Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church, 21st Street and Snyder Avenue. Friends may call at 9 a.m. Burial will be at Rolling Green Cemetery.