(Originally posted in two parts on Facebook today)
My next door neighbor and good friend Dick Mitchell passed away at home in his sleep last night, December 5th, 2015. After I bugged him for a couple years, I finally got him to go to a game with us (and his family) at the tail of the 2014 season. He told me it was the first game at Safeco he’d been to in a long time (he said 14 years, but I think that overstates it). It was the last game he attended in person. RIP, Dick. I’ll miss you.
Dick was a real interesting fellow. He, along with Ken and Tod, are responsible for my interest in baseball. He was an enthusiastic Elk and a former national chair of that organization. He was born to a single mother before the war, and she raised him alone for the first period of his life. Later she married a man, Fred Mitchell, who Dick has described to me as the head of testing at Boeing during the war – he told me about getting picked up at school and driven to the site of the testbed B-29 crash into the Frye meatpacking plant as the plant burned. I thought that crash was just before the war, but in fact it was on February 18, 1943.
Later in the forties he had some sort of connection with Lloyd’s Rocket, the former service station at the foot of Capitol Hill where it shades into the ID. He told me that “they” had a sprint car and raced it, although he never drove it, which was somehow associated with the station.
He went into the service just before Korea and trained as a SeaBee, eventually helping to build the naval base at Guantanamo before coming home and starting his life and career. He was a construction electrician and a member of IBEW 77 until his retirement. I cajoled him into doing a little bit of lighting work on our deck about seven years ago, probably the last electrical project he ever did.
In the sixties and seventies, Dick has told me that he was active in civic efforts to bring an MLB team to Seattle. He was just old enough to remember the Rainiers’ first-season PCL championship, and I was pleased to give him a copy of the recent account of the Rainiers, “Pitchers of Beer”, and a replica cap for that team which was a stadium giveaway at at Mariners Turn Back the Clock night sometime in the past ten years.
After he read the book he told me excitedly about those efforts and how his group was able to meet with the aging diamond heroes of those Rainiers teams, who were included in the local organizing hoopla for obvious reasons.
He had both lost his first wife, Ruth, before I met him and found another partner also before I met him. Betty, his wife at the time he died, is still alive, but she is very strongly affected by dementia and it’s not clear to what extent she’ll process or understand his loss.
I’ve met two of Dick’s kids, possibly all of them, both daughters a bit older than me. One of them works at Safeco and I always stop and chat with her when I’m at a game.
He never met his biological father. He was very interested in my ongoing adoption reunion. I would call him in the middle of fun or interesting games and sometimes run over and watch them with him.
When my parents were here for Thanksgiving, we all paid a call together. It was the last time any of us would see him. He has been ailing, so his loss was not unexpected. He remained in his typical good spirits every time I saw him in the past few months.
I really will miss him. He was a good, funny, kind, and mischievous person.