As I was growing up in Southern Illinois, the only people in the world as close to me as my wonderful parents, were our dear friends Trudy and Bill Mitchell. This past week Bill passed away and is survived by his best friend and devoted wife of 62 years-Trudy.They were THE perfect couple and true role models.
They have constantly been a dominant influence on my life and one of my treats has been my many visits back home to see them over the years.The days I would spend at 'The Mitchell Hotel' as I called their wonderful home and hospitality has always been a special time for me. One of my favorite times was their amazing 50th wedding anniversary which was truly the event of the year in 1998.
Where Trudy is the outgoing, charming conversationalist and connects with everyone, Bill was the quiet, brilliant and kind man who made you feel like the most important person in the world when you spoke with him. He always truly listened and with every conversation, I always walked away learning something new and profound.
Bill was a true entrepreneur and self made businessman-after serving in World War Two,where he earned both the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. By fate, he was stationed in Nuremberg, Germany where he met his beloved Trudy.Their wedding was the first one performed in a church in Nuremberg between an American GI and a German bride.
When they moved back to Bill's roots in Southern, Illinois–it was a few years later that my father Paul had started his medical practice and brought my dear mother, Molly–who had never been out of New York City–and she and Trudy became fast and close friends. Even years and years later when my folks moved to Florida, Mom and Trudy always spoke every Friday morning and it was like they were still across town and they remained close until Mom left us in 2006.
Bill Mitchell was in the oil business and built M&M Oil and no one worked harder and smarter then he did.The Mitchells have always been people who gave back to the community and their generosity is awesome.
A few of the many things Bill and Trudy have sponsored and supported include a ballpark, community flag poles, an annual get acquainted dinner for German students at the University of Southern Indiana, twice bringing the Evansville Philharmonic to Albion,Illinois (our home town of 2000 people) for concerts, organizing a large holiday care package campaign for the troops in Iraq, and helping countless individuals in need– Bill and Trudy were always thinking of how to help and give and acted on it continually.
In Evansville, many organizations have been recipients of the Mitchell's love and giving. Included, yet not limited to, are the Mesker Park Zoo, the Evansville Philharmonic, Deaconess Hospital and the University of Southern Indiana. At Deaconess, they assisted with the purchase of the first CT scanner, in 1978. The USI campus named Mitchell Auditorium in honor of them and bestowed honorary Doctoral degrees in the 1985, for their long time support to the campus including scholarships to nursing students that will last for many years to come. One of my special times was when I spoke at the University in my dear friends auditorium–it was a highlight for me.
In 1995, the mayor presented them with the Key to the City of Evansville.
Bill was a member of the Evansville Country Club, Evansville Kennel Club, the Masonic Lodge of West Salem, Ill., for more than 50 years, a former member of the Board of Deaconess Hospital, the Board of Southern Indiana University Foundation, Board of Directors of Grayville National City Bank, was one of the early members of Evansville Petroleum Club, serving as its chairman for many years and Chairman on the Board of Grace Land Cemetery. He never tired of serving and helping and each organization was so lucky to have his wisdom and guidance.
The earth has lost a wonderful man with the passing of Bill last week and he will live in many of our hearts forever. As I said to Trudy, 'he is now your Guardian angel'.
Since my parents passed and today is actually the 9 year anniversary of my father's passing, I always seem to find pennies on the ground just when I need them–as in advice from my parents or a decision I must make(to date, I have found and collected over 300) and I believe that when I find a penny–it also means that an angel just received its wings. Yesterday morning, I found a bright shiny new penny and knew that one was Bill looking down at his beloved Trudy.
I look forward to my visit to Trudy in the next month where we will laugh, cry and reminisce.