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Reece G. Mitchell

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Reece G. Mitchell Obituary
HENDERSONVILLE-Reece G. Mitchell, 84, died Friday, September 4, 2015 at Spring Arbor.
There's a saying that "Old birders never die; they just finish their life list." Reece Graham Mitchell was born on May 7th 1931 to parents John and Maggie on a small family farm near Renick, West Virginia. He was the fifth of six children; one older brother and four sisters. He is survived by his sisters MaryBelle, Pearl, and "Puffy." After farm chores often involving plow mules, he and the dog would go fishing and squirrel hunting. The squirrels later came back to haunt his many birdfeeders. Over his entire lifetime and theirs, he invented or invested in everything a man with a B.S. degree could possibly think of to keep them from consuming $25 in birdseed.
Having plenty of ambition and lacking financial means to go to college, he joined the U.S. Army during the Korean War and was stationed in Alaska to help discourage invasion and redeem its strategic importance during the 'cold' war. On leave, he would ride the whistle-stop train from Anchorage and head out into the bush hiking and fishing. After four years, a grateful Army sent him off to college on the GI Bill. He then managed a successful career in business that allowed his family to live all over the globe and to support his children's education.
He met his sweetheart Judith Ann in college, where as a teaching assistant, he helped prevent her from failing chemistry. No love story could have ever had a better opening line. They were married for 54 years until last year, when Judy died. As a 'lone goose,' Reece missed Judy terribly every day until he finally joined her this September.
Judy introduced him to birding and he never looked back but through a pair of binoculars. No Christmas passed without some gift having to do with birds. They volunteered for 'countless' bird surveys and for many years helped local school children appreciate the wonder of birds. Reece believed the accessibility of birds in every nook and cranny of our world made them the best little teachers of our place in the nature of things and responsibility to all life.
He liked woodworking and made several pieces of furniture or carved birds for family. He once attempted to "antique" a duck decoy he carved by beating it senseless with a hammer before burying it in the backyard for three years. Upon digging it up, it looked as fresh as the day he'd planted it there. Not being one to give up easily (did we mention his lifelong love of mules?) he drove over it in the family car.
Persistence, devotion to family and friends, generosity and a sense of humor were among his best qualities. He was raised in a family where teasing was elevated to a Shakespearian art form, only everyone drinks the poison and dies laughing. His own father once convinced a young Reece that icicles dredged in flour and fried in hot oil were rather tasty. He was well-liked by his neighbors despite numerous practical jokes. Long-time friends next door once returned from vacation to find a sign on their front lawn, "House for Sale by Neighbor… Cheap!" Despite and perhaps because of these antics, he was visited frequently later in life by many former neighbors who helped out with a chore or two. Thank you all dearly for your love, devotion and care for our parents.
Reece taught us the innocence and wisdom to be found in humor, how to play fair, work hard and keep plowing ahead. He is survived by his two children Ron and Meg, who couldn't resist honoring their father in the way he might appreciate most. He always had our backs and will continue to be a force in our lives. Reece's migration will be celebrated in Thos. Shepherds Church Street Chapel at 1:00 pm on Saturday, September 12, 2015.
In lieu of flowers, we encourage donations to The Audubon Society, 400 Silver Cedar Court, Suite 240, Chapel Hill, NC 27514 or a nearby birdfeeder.
An online register book is available for family and friends by visiting www.thosshepherd.com. Thos. Shepherd & Son Funeral Directors and Cremation Memorial Center are in charge of arrangements.
Published in The Times-News on Sept. 10, 2015
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