Delvin Bill “Mitch” Mitchell was born in a dugout on May 21st ,1922 in Texas County, OK. He was the fourth son of Monroe and Cora Mitchell. No doctor was available to help with his birth so a mid-wife was used. Our dad came from a very humble/poor childhood. He talked of spending several of his childhood school years in Wheeler, Texas where he would trudge to school in the snow with no coat and old newspaper placed inside of his shoes because of the holes in the soles of his shoes. He said that he and his brothers and sisters were known as ‘alley rats’ because of their scavenging for scrap metal, bottles, etc. so that they might raise enough money to eat. He talked of a time when the family later moved to Gunnison Colorado and the family picked apples. Two of his cousins got jobs at a local cannery so they were given apple butter in lieu of pay. Dad would later decline apple butter when it would be offered to him as he said that he had enough of eating apple butter to last him a life time.
Later in life, our dad graduated from high school while working at a golf course in California. He said that the golf course superintendent was kind enough to let him live in the locker room at the golf course. During the day, he would caddy for the members and said the highlight of his day would be when he was able to get a ‘double loop’ which meant carrying two bags for two different golfers for 36 holes. He said that paid $.25 cents which would buy you a nice bowl of soup or spaghetti. He learned to play golf there and later became a certified PGA pro golfer. Also during this time, he learned to fly which benefited greatly in later times.
In 1943, our dad volunteered into the Army Air Corp which preceded the formation of the Air Force. He received several promotions and ascended to the rank of 2nd Lt. and was assigned to flying B-26 heavy bombers over occupied territories. He flew the mandatory 25 missions which would then take you out of rotation of combat missions. He lost only one of his crew, a tail gunner due to German flak. He and his crew were able to assist in the ‘Battle of the Bulge’ once weather cleared enough for them to fly. For his service, our dad was awarded the Bronze Star, Air Medal w/4 Oak Leaf Clusters, Distinguished Unit Badge, American Campaign Service Medal, European African Middle Eastern Service Medal and Victory Medal.
After the war, he came back to Oklahoma where he met my mother who happened to be on a date with one of dad’s cousins. He and my mom ‘hit it off’ and were married not too long after this. Don’t think his cousin ever forgave dad for that as both were very enamored with this beautiful young Oklahoma girl. They were so poor at the time of their marriage that their first house was a converted chicken coop.
Dad was offered a job to be a pilot for American Airlines shortly after their marriage but turned it down because there was such a glut of pilots returning from the war that he said that ‘a taxi driver’ made more money than a pilot. He crop dusted and flew pipeline inspection flights for a time after this. During this time, he had a horrific plane crash in Minnesota when he got ‘socked in’ by freezing rain in snow; he said he could not tell whether he was going up or down as could not see 10 feet in front of him and the plane had no instruments to assist him. He crashed in a snowy field which luckily was by a farmer’s house.
He said his left leg was driven 18 inches into the frozen ground upon impact and spent three days in the hospital and it was ‘touch and go’ as to whether he would live or not. The crash obliterated his left ankle and resulted in his left leg being a half inch shorter than his right one. (This caused serious problems in later life). In Sept. of 1950, he and mom had a daughter, Judy Faye Mitchell and in Feb. of 1953 a son Rocky Gene Mitchell. In the meantime, dad started building houses while also flying. He flew on a photo shoot with a Muskogee Phoenix reporter in 1954 to Vance Air Force base where he met and shook the hand of Dwight D Eisenhower. We asked him what that was like and his only comment was that ‘he was a very nice man’.
Our dad and family built 26 homes in the Wagoner vicinity during this time of which most are still standing. Almost all of the homes were sold before they were even finished. However, our dad realized that it would take us almost 4 months to build a house and the profit was minimal. That was when he decided to go into the business of selling used cars. He also continued flying during this time for John F. Beasley Construction Company out of Muskogee which built bridges thru out the United States. He flew company executives and parts all over the United States from Bangor Maine, New York City, Pensacola Florida to Seattle Washington and numerous places between. In 1962, he was asked to fly Mickey Mantle and Billy Martin to a hunting trip in Texas. His son, (Rocky),’ pleaded for him to get an autographed picture from the Mick which he did and Rocky still his the picture.
Our dad sold used cars for 40 years in the same location. He was known as the ‘man on the hill’; ‘go see him as he is honest and he will tell you what was right or wrong about a car.’ Milt Griffin was his first mechanic and later it was Willie Rice. This later progressed to Johnny, Charles and Joe Rice. This business is still in existence with Ronnie, Johnny Jr. and Jeff. You will not find better mechanics or more honest people than the Rice family. Dad starting buying used cars from Kevin Grover and Randy Cobb shortly after this. I would put these two men in the same caliber with the Rice family. Dad and Mr. Grover became good friends and both had trust in each other as well as Mr. Cobb. Dad bought many a used car from them for resale ‘on the hill’
He and our mother were married for 58 years until her death from Alzheimer’s on May 3rd of 2006 and they were loving partners in not only the business but their lives. Our dad was never the same when our mother died. He would go see her every day while she was confined to the nursing home. A good day would be when he could get her to smile at him.
All of Bill’s brothers and sisters preceded him in death as well as his ‘partner in life’ Bernice Levada Mitchell. He is survived by his loving daughter Judy Faye Plunkett of Muskogee, his son Rocky Gene Mitchell of Wagoner, granddaughters: Leisha O’Quinn, her husband Ray and great granddaughter Piper of Spring Texas and Nikki Kuehnert, her husband Dan and great grandchildren Tatum, Maddy and Kenna of Jenks, OK.
Rest in peace our father; you led the hard working, honest and good life. Please join our loving mother as you have so longed for. In lieu of flowers memorials may be made to the American Legion Post #153 of Wagoner. Services will be held at the Ft. Gibson National Cemetery at 2:00 P.M., Tuesday, December 31, 2013, under the direction of Shipman Funeral Home & Crematory.