Bruce Gordon “Buzz” Mitchell, 82, of Dickinson, N.D., died Friday, Nov. 5, 2021, at Richardton Health Center, Richardton, N.D.
Bruce was born March 11, 1938, in Keene, the first of five sons of the late John D. and Pauline L. (Parker) Mitchell. Bruce grew up in Marlborough and graduated from Keene High School in 1956. He married Donna Mae McCarthy in 1960. They settled in Marlborough, where they enthusiastically raised their three children and gleefully helped the local moms and dads look after all the kids in the neighborhood. He was best known as “Buzz” or “Buzzy” to all who knew him, a childhood nickname that stayed with him his entire life. His early years were spent in part as a big brother to his siblings who he loved very much — playing games, competing in sports, and getting into a lot of mischief.
Buzz was a man who loved to be outdoors, in the woods, along a river, in a field or on a mountaintop. He enjoyed hunting, fishing, hiking and camping. Buzz was a natural navigator when hiking. He always preferred the path less taken. He didn’t need a map or a GPS but always carried a compass with him. He could always find his way back to where he started, very often followed by his children and many of the neighborhood kids. He taught everyone who would listen how to be prepared when hiking — lessons he handed down to his children and his grandchildren.
Buzz was a prolific runner and track star at Keene High School. Along with his three teammates, they won a gold medal in the mile at the 1956 Penn relays. Historic track coach Jack Mayes was his mentor. Buzz was an exceptional storyteller. Many hours were spent with him entertaining the neighborhood kids with his stories of growing up in Marlborough. His brothers would tell you the same thing. He would enthusiastically act out his stories with a great sense of detail and humor, not to mention accompanying character voices and wild comedic gestures.
Buzz was a passionate and devoted teacher for many years, teaching at Lincoln Elementary and Hinsdale Elementary in his early years before settling in his 4th-grade classroom at Symonds School in Keene. He enjoyed drawing funny pictures on the chalkboard and especially loved being out on the playground with the students, playing touch football, kickball or any other sport or playground game. On a snow day when the Keene schools would all be canceled, Buzz would fill in as a substitute teacher at the Marlborough Elementary School, which never seemed to close because of a snowstorm. Instead of spending the whole day in the classroom he would invite not only the students from the class he was teaching, but all the other children in the school, to join him for an extended winter recess on the playground. At a time when elementary schools were still formal, Buzz allowed, and preferred, that his students call him “Mitch” instead of Mr. Mitchell.
Buzz was a lifelong student, graduating from Keene High School in 1956, followed by his graduation from Keene State College with a bachelor’s degree in education, and then on to several masters degrees in education and history. He was an avid reader, preferring non-fiction and history books. A copy of a book that he wrote as a college thesis, “The History of the Town of Marlborough N.H.” can be found at the Marlborough Frost Free Library. Hundreds of hours of research, searching for cellar holes and cemetery markers, very often accompanied by his children, went into that paper. Buzz spent many years researching the family genealogy, traveling to libraries, town halls, and cemeteries all over New England to trace our family history.
Buzz spent the last 16 years in Dickinson, N.D., with his wife, Linda, and two of his stepdaughters and their children. Buzz loved North Dakota, which stemmed from his love of stories about the prairie and the Wild West when he was young.
Buzz is survived by his wife, Linda (Bersaw); his children: David J. Mitchell and his wife, Dianne; Daniel B. Mitchell and his wife, Lisa; and Deborah W. Clark and her husband, Jason; his grandchildren: Alyssa, Christopher, Mariah, Brittanie, Sydney, Cameron and Abigail; his great-granddaughter, Maeby; three stepdaughters: Andrea L. Lukowski, Diane M. Anderson and Nicole L. Pavlicek; his step-grandchildren: Emily, Jessica, Alexis and Ashlyn; and a great-grandson, Liam. He is also survived by three brothers: Gary D. Mitchell of Davis, Calif.; John P. “Jack” Mitchell of The Villages, Fla.; and Roland E. Mitchell of Lakeland, Fla.; a fourth brother, Mark S. Mitchell, passed away earlier this year. Buzz is also survived by several cousins, nieces, nephews, extended family and friends.
A Celebration of Life with family and friends will be held Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, at 1 p.m. at the site of The Old Meeting House, Frost Hill Road in Marlborough. In lieu of flowers a donation can be made in Bruce’s name to: Richardton Health Center, 212 3rd Avenue W, Richardton ND 58652