"Jack" (1928 - 2009)
Published in Northwest
Florida Daily News from October 22 to October 25, 2009
Mitchell of Fort Walton Beach, Fla., went home to be with the Lord he
loved on Oct. 15, 2009. He was 80 years old.
He was born on Oct. 24, 1928, in Newark, N.J.
Born of Irish immigrants Joseph and Mary Ellen Mitchell, "Johnny,"
as he was then called, grew up in a multi-generational home, with parents,
grandparents, aunts, uncles, and siblings all under the same roof. There
he learned to work hard, taking his first job at the age of 11, setting
bowling pins at night to help the family earn money.
As a young teenage boy he showed an unusual proclivity for all sports,
even pitching to the great Babe Ruth. After high school, he played professional
baseball with the Pirates and Giants organizations, demonstrating such
skill in stealing bases that he was called the "Jack Rabbit."
While playing professional baseball and coaching college ball, Jack also
attended Elon College on a basketball scholarship, obtaining a B.A. in
English literature. While there, he met the love of his life, Sue Haley,
a beautiful southern belle from Gibsonville, N.C. He fell instantly in
love with her and they married on July 11, 1952. Two children followed:
a son, Shawn; and a daughter, Sherri.
Faced with a growing family and the radically lower salaries paid to professional
athletes of the day, Jack went to work for Metropolitan Life Insurance
and in 1963 he moved with the company to Fort Walton Beach. Once again,
he excelled in his chosen profession and became a Certified Life Underwriter.
But it was in the fall of 1975, at the age of 46, that Jack's life was
utterly transformed, when he, a sinner, was saved entirely by the grace
of Jesus Christ. His life was never the same. All who knew him testified
that they had never seen such a miraculous conversion or powerful witness
for the Lord. He spent the rest of his life studying God's Word and proclaiming
it boldly to all whom he met, and his ever-increasing love toward God's
people - not least toward his beloved Trinity Presbyterian Church in Valparaiso
- powerfully affected countless lives.
Jack's faith came to shape every area of his life, including his worldview.
He was a staunch conservative, and he constantly prayed for the day when
godly people would once again govern the country he loved so much. His
hope was that his grandchildren could enjoy the freedoms that he had,
particularly the freedom to worship and the freedom of speech, in a land
that once again fully embraced life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
In his latter years, Jack derived great joy from playing his piano and
from cooking, and he daily played 18 holes of golf almost until his death.
His faithfulness and devotion to his family was both exceptional and sacrificial,
and this was reciprocated with intense loyalty, respect and love. He did
all things with enthusiasm and with excellence, and to the very last,
when he stepped up to the plate, he swung for the fences.
Surviving Jack are his wife, Sue Mitchell of Fort Walton Beach; his son,
Shawn Mitchell and wife Ann; and his daughter, Sherri Martin and husband
Rod, all of Niceville, Fla.; as well as his sister, Joan Billand; and
his brothers, Joseph and James Mitchell.
Jack is also survived by his adored and adoring grandchildren, Dolly Ledzinski
and her husband Jerry of Carmel, Calif., Dr. Archer Martin and his wife
Elizabeth of New Haven, Conn., William Mitchell of Tampa, Fla., Elizabeth
Mitchell of Birmingham, Ala., Shawn Mitchell Jr. of Niceville, Haley Martin
of Jacksonville, Fla., and Tiffany and Kristal Schwartz of San Jose, Calif.
Services will be held at the First Presbyterian Church of Niceville on
Tuesday, Oct. 27 at 10 a.m. The Rev. Mickey Schneider will preside. Pallbearers
will be Shawn Mitchell, Rod Martin, William Mitchell, Archer Martin, Shawn
Mitchell Jr., Pat Tidwell, David Goetsch, Sam Nelson and Greg Waldron.
Expressions of sympathy may be viewed or submitted online at www.emeraldcoastfuneralhome.com.