CHESTERFIELD, N.H. -- Pisgah State Park now has one fewer friend.
William "Bill" McKim Mitchell died peacefully at his home in late May following a period of declining health, and with that the town of Chesterfield lost another founding member of the Friends of Pisgah, Inc. He was 91.
Friends of Pisgah is an organization established in 1987 and comprised entirely of volunteers that assist the New Hampshire Division of Parks and Recreation in the planning, operation and maintenance of Pisgah State Park. Mitchell, along with his now-deceased brother-in-law Bill Appel, was one of the main instigators of the group and served as its first president until 1994.
John Summers and Bill Roberts -- who were both Friends of Pisgah and friends of Mitchell -- will remember the man as a passionate stalwart for the natural beauty of the park he loved.
"He was a very good person. ... (He and Appel) complemented one another. They were very affective organizers," said Summers, another FOP founding member. "I learned what true volunteerism is really about because of him."
Summers said some might describe Mitchell as a "hard-fisted Yankee," in reference to his fiscally-conservative ways.
"He helped a lot of people," Summers added. "He was a very religious man. He was always willing to help someone. He was very generous."
According to an obituary in the Keene Sentinel, a memorial service was held at Grace Community Evangelical Free
Roberts, who was the Friends of Pisgah president from 2002 to 2007, said he got a chance to know Mitchell well since meeting him in 1998, when he joined the FOP and placed onto its council.
"He was wonderful -- very easy-going. He was a good listener and a good lecturer," he said, adding that his late friend was a very talented and smart man.
Roberts also said Mitchell had plenty of visions for FOP. He spoke of how his friend was responsible for getting a replica of an 1850s-era building in Chesterfield constructed in the Winchester, N.H., side of the park. Once it was approved by the New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development’s Division of Parks and Recreation in the mid-1990s, it became the park’s visitors center.
According to his obituary, Mitchell was born in Brattleboro on Jan. 6, 1921, the son of Robert and Lillian (Manning) Mitchell.
He graduated from Brattleboro High School -- where he was a member of the ski team as a ski jumper -- in 1939. He performed ski jumps around New England until extensive leg fractures he suffered at Harris Hill in Brattleboro ended his career.
Mitchell enlisted in the United State Army Air Forces and entered the Civilian Pilot Training Program, though the program was canceled the following year. He was transferred to the Aviation Cadet Program and graduated in 1994 with a commission as second lieutenant and received his fighter pilot wings.
He was eventually transferred to Perrin Field in Texas to wait out the remainder of World War II and was honorably discharged on Nov. 5, 1945.
Mitchell, who once served as a selectman and on Chesterfield’s fire department, historical society, budget committee and board of adjustment over the years, married Prudence Skerry on May 17, 1949. The two made their home in Chesterfield two years later, running a dairy farm for 1951 to 1967, when they took a government buyout.
He is survived by two sons, McKim William Mitchell and his partner Jon Glende, and Peter Edmund and his wife Shelly, all of Chesterfield. He also leaves behind three grandchildren -- United States Army Staff Sgt. Peter Williams, stationed in Colorado Springs, Colo., and his wife Melinda, Sally Lynne of San Francisco, and Emily Esslinger and her husband Gregory, of Rindge, N.H.
Mitchell was predeceased by Prudence in May 2003. His brother Richard, of Hinsdale, N.H., died in September 1989 and his other brother Donald, of Chester, passed away in January 2007.
Members of the Mitchell family declined to comment for this story.
Domenic Poli can be reached at email@example.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277.