George Dionysus Mourges, co-owner of J.G. Melon's

restaurants in Manhattan and Southampton, had a zest for life, luscious food

and a good joke, family members said.

Days after the Manhattan restaurant's anniversary, and three days shy of

his 75th birthday, Mourges died of lung cancer on June 16 at New York

Presbyterian Cornell Hospital in Manhattan.

"He was a very unique individual," his daughter Michelle Mourges Marx of

Los Angeles said of the personality behind the near three-decade-old Manhattan

landmark restaurant. "He had a tremendous passion for everything. He would go

on about the Rolling Stones' lyrics, or the price of tomatoes. His vibrancy and

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passion were his trademark."

Mourges, who was born in Astoria, opened the eateries, which were known for

their tasty burgers and chili, on Manhattan's Third Avenue and Southampton's

Ocean Road with his partner Jack O'Neill.

Over the years, Melon's cuisine and its co-owner's charisma has catered to

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many ranging from local families to former British Prime Minister Margaret

Thatcher and singer Mick Jagger, his daughter said.

"My dad just had a way of making everyone feel equally important," his

daughter said.

After serving in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II, he married

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Anthula Toni in 1946. The couple divorced 17 years later.

Intending to open a small hotel, Mourges enrolled in Lewis Hotel Training

School in Washington, D.C., in 1949, his daughter said.

He graduated the next year with new goals-he was enamored with food, she

said.

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Before the year was through, Mourges began a 10-year stint with a

German-trained chef at the Lexington Hotel in Manhattan, family members said.

In 1962, he started working his way up the proverbial food chain from

maitre d', to manager, and later part-owner of Johnny Johnston's Charcoal Room,

in Manhattan.

The following year Mourges married his second wife Lita, a native of

Tuscany, Italy. The couple divorced in 1995, his daughter said. His love for

the Tuscan region was second only to his love for New York City, she added.

In 1971, Mourges went on to work at Allen's restaurant, where he met

O'Neill, and they teamed up to open Melon's two years later.

The Southampton Melon's was started by the culinary duo in 1976 and

remained open for 12 years.

In addition to his daughter, Mourges is survived by another daughter,

Denise Mourges of East Hampton; two brothers, Pantelas and Agamemnon Mourges of

Smithfield, Va.; a sister, Helen Kairis of Alexandria, Va.; a granddaughter

and stepdaughter.

Services were held June 19 at All Souls Unitarian Church, in Manhattan.

Mourges was cremated.