Innovative Mortgage continues late owner’s legacy

The team who worked with a Kennewick businessman known for his commitment to his family, his employees and his faith plan to honor their boss by continuing to run the business the same way he would. Dan Melior, 55, owner and mortgage broker at Innovative Mortgage, died May 12 from cancer.

It blindsided everyone, as just two weeks prior, he was vacationing with his family in the Turks and Caicos Islands for 10 days.

Two days prior to being diagnosed, he walked three miles with his wife Karla. He visited the doctor after he noticed his arm was swelling up; he thought he had contracted an infectious disease while on vacation.

“He kept saying, ‘I just don’t feel quite right.’ They thought the initial diagnosis was wrong,” Karla said.

Twelve days later he died.

But his legacy clearly lives on in those whose lives he most impacted — his family, his colleagues and his community. On his Facebook page, an outpouring of messages of love and gratitude fill his wall with images containing special memories from those he shared his life with.

Dave Retter, president and owner of Retter & Co. Sotheby’s International Realty in Kennewick, met Dan several years ago when his stepson worked as a mortgage officer for Dan, but they didn’t become close friends until about three years ago.

They shared similar philosophies about life and business and a mutual love for the game of golf.

“He was always about doing the right thing by his clients – that was so important to Dan and it was important to us as well”

Dave Retter, president and owner of Retter & Co. Sotheby’s International Realty in Kennewick

“He was always about doing the right thing by his clients – that was so important to Dan and it was important to us as well,” Retter said. “We also shared the same philosophy about giving back to the community and leaving it a better place than how we found it.”

Retter recalled Dan was the one who convinced him to take off Wednesday afternoons to golf with him.

“I am 65 and have been doing real estate for 40 years. I never took a Wednesday afternoon off, but Dan convinced me that life is short and that we needed to take our time to get out of the office and communicate about work and life,” Retter said.

They were both highly competitive in the game, Retter said. Dan always wanted to do “one shot better,” but that wouldn’t prevent him from helping Retter in the game by pointing out areas for improvement.

“It’s just who he was; he was very special. Dan always wanted us to have a good day and shoot a good score,” Retter said.

In addition to being an avid golfer, Dan loved traveling, hiking and fishing with his family. He and Karla have a daughter, Kayleen.

“He worked out, he went to the gym, he was very active, he golfed two days week,” Karla said.

Karla described how happy he was when they got to sail the Greek isles in catamarans. He was also very involved in his church — Bethel Church in Richland — and often led high school youth groups on mission trips to places like Haiti.

He was a veteran, too, serving in Desert Storm in the Army after attending Eastern Washington University, which is where he and Karla met.

Dan founded Innovative Mortgage in 2000. Before that, he was a wholesale rep for Household Finance before joining First Union in 1995.

“When he started the company, he believed that if you run an honest company with integrity — he wanted to honor God in his business — it would be successful. He treated people with respect,” Karla said.

Dan was known for the way he built his relationships, both professional and personal.

His reputation is what attracted Mark Runsvold to work alongside him as a mortgage loan originator.

“Before I joined the team, I knew Dan pretty well and loved his integrity and the way he did business,” Runsvold said. “One of the first deals we did together, it went sideways for reasons unrelated to us. I wanted to waive our whole fee, but I didn’t know what Dan wanted to do.”

It turned out, Dan wanted to do the same. “That’s the guy I wanted to work for — someone who would do what is best not only for Innovative but also for the borrower. When something has to be fixed, he would pull out the checkbook and make it happen,” Runsvold said.

Karla hopes to continue her husband’s legacy at Innovative Mortgage. It’s a family affair after all. She started managing the books for the company in 2008, after the two other owners left the business. Kayleen is working at the front desk in the office for the summer. She will be leaving to study abroad in Greece in September.

Karla will continue to own the company, with Runsvold managing day-to-day operations.

She said the Turks and Caicos trip helped give her late husband comfort and peace of mind that the business “can go on without me.”

“We talked about the business and what would happen,” Karla said. “He told me they did a great job; it ran great. I think that was God preparing me, knowing he would go.”

“It was a good practice. We needed to have our stuff together for him,” Runsvold said. “He was expecting he would have a lot to do when he came back from vacation. We had tidied up his desk, and he just had a couple of deposits he needed to do at the bank.”

Karla mentioned that in the past he had been solicited to sell his company but had refused because he has always wanted to be loyal to his employees.

“He gave so much to everybody,” she said.

The team at Innovative Mortgage will continue to run the business as a way to honor him.

“I want to carry that legacy forward for him,” Karla said.

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