Dr. William "Bill" Mitzel, having spent a lifetime refining the art of doing what he pleased, died the way he wanted on October 11, 2020: in his sleep, at home. Despite a predilection for good beer, sausage, speck, and naps, Bill lived a long and adventurous life, surprising himself and all who knew him by making it to the age of 84.
Bill was born in Bismarck, North Dakota on June 11, 1936 and was raised in Napoleon, ND, where as a youngster he played baseball, helped out on his grandparents' homestead, and worked in his father's garage. He served in the U.S. Army for two years after high school, where he became a champion Morse coder thanks to his sense of rhythm. He was the first in his family to go to a 4-year college, receiving a BA in Music with help from the G.I. Bill. He briefly taught high school band in North Dakota and Vermont before resigning "for the good of the students." For a time, he toured with a "Drunk and Bungle Corps" (aka Drum and Bugle Corps), playing baritone saxophone.
Fulfilling his father's wish that he pursue a graduate degree, Bill earned an MA in Education and later a PhD in Psychology. He served as a teacher and guidance counselor in Monterey, CA, and in Department of Defense schools in England, the Philippines, the Azores, and Turkey.
While in Turkey, he met his wife Barbara, who was teaching primary school at the air base. Their courtship included rides in his Corvette Stingray and a hair-raising flight in a Cessna, which Bill piloted over a militarized zone. Despite this, Bill and Barbara were married in 1968 in Lodi, CA. They lived in Aschaffenburg, Germany, and in the Philippines (again) before returning stateside, where daughters Kara and Nicole were born.
For a time, Bill provided counseling to Vietnam veterans at a VA Hospital in Ohio. He then became an administrator of education, training, and doctrine for the U.S. Navy and later the U.S. Army, taking the family to Florida, Washington, Korea, and Virginia (serving at both Fort Myer and Fort Monroe). He worked on projects such as nuclear submarine development, downsizing the Army, and as a military liaison to Congress. He received many commendations and retired in 1997 with a civilian rank of GS15. Bill and Barbara's adventures continued in retirement, road-tripping in an RV and later living in Texas, North Carolina, and California.
Bill Mitzel had a natural propensity for adventure and mischief. Whether making a harrowing border crossing, visiting remote villages, or picking off leeches after a jungle hike, if you were with Bill you were either going to live it or hear about it over a good beer – probably more than once – whether you were friend or stranger.
Bill leaves behind his wife, Barbara Mitzel; daughters, Kara Mitzel and Nicole Gardner; son-in-law, John Gardner; grandchildren, Mila, Natasha, and Willa; brother and sister-in-law, John and Diane Mitzel, and many cousins and life-long friends. All will remember him for his kindness, humor, and the ever-present mischievous twinkle in his eye. He always rooted for the underdog and never let unkind people (he would use a more colorful term) get him down. He demonstrated an altruistic desire for a more just world, and a lifelong commitment to public service.
In lieu of flowers, his family asks you to consider donating time or money in a way that gives a leg up to your neighbors in a time of need. This could include your local food bank, the scholarship fund at your alma mater or local college, the ACLU, the Disabled American Veterans
) Charitable Service Trust, or your local SPCA, among others. A memorial for Bill will be held at a later date.