Stoney Creek resident Bill Mitchell is being remembered as a dedicated volunteer who had a drive for helping others and knack for making people’s lives better.
Chamber of Commerce executive director Dave Cage, who along with Mitchell, was one of the founding members of Stoney Creek Seniors Outreach Services (SOS), recalled his long-time friend as a strong advocate for seniors.
“Bill was always looking for ways to make things better for them,” he said. “He used to always say, ‘I’m sure we can do better, I’m sure we can do more.’ And then, it was just go, go, go.”
SOS, which assists senior citizens and disabled persons to remain independent and in their homes through a number of means, was established in 1990.
The non-profit organization first arranged volunteers to help seniors with household chores and transportation needs.
“Later on, Bill came up with this great idea that we should assist seniors with snow removal. We applied for grants through the Trillium (foundation) and bought some snow blowers,” Cage said. “He actually went out and ran the snow blower a couple of times too when we were short of people. That’s just the kind of person he was.”
Today, SOS provides almost 200 rides a month and cleans 150 driveways or sidewalks each winter using its 16 snow blowers.
“Bill was president of SOS for the majority of the time that he was with the organization,” Cage said. “The other thing he was very proud of is, it was all (done) without city funding. His pure dedication to the community, to make it a better community is going to be sorely missed.”
Mitchell died on Oct. 20 after a battle with cancer. He was 85.
Mitchell was predeceased by his wife of 63 years, Juanita, who also was a founding member of SOS.
He leaves behind their son, Bert, two daughters, Wendy and Jana, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
While Mitchell’s time in the community has come to an end, friends and admirers say his service to others, his manner and the way he made people feel will never be forgotten.
In addition to assisting seniors for more than 20 years, Mitchell lent his hands to Stoney Creek United Church’s Wraparound program, helping to deliver winter coats and food to those in need.
He volunteered his time to the Dr. Bob Kemp Hospice, Habitat for Humanity and Hamilton policing centre – to name a few.
Mitchell also was a founding and 50-year member of the Canadian Watch Fob Association and a 23-year member with Scouts Canada, having earned the Woods badge.
He was a long-time member and past-president of the Stoney Creek Historical Society as well.
“I joined the historical society in 2006 and at that time, I had the pleasure of meeting Bill and his wife, Juanita,” current president Greg Armstrong said. “One of the reasons I stayed with the society was because of the caliber of Bill. I found him to always be honest and fair in his dealings with everybody.”
Armstrong said regardless of health or age, Mitchell never said no when it came to helping out with a project.
“He was instrumental in starting up our reference library and archive. He was a hardworking individual,” he said. “He wanted to make certain that we had a Stoney Creek Historical Society and did the things necessary, by example, to ensure that we had such a society.”
Chamber of Commerce vice-president Lori Raudnask said Mitchell had a “total passion” for helping others.
He truly cared about his community, she added.
“I have always admired Bill for his community service; he was always getting involved in something to be of service to others,” Raudnask said. “I asked him recently what he loved so much about being president of SOS and he said, ‘making life easier for the seniors.’ I don’t think he thought of himself as a senior, even though he just celebrated his 85th birthday.”
Raudnask, who has known Mitchell for over 45 years, said he loved his family and friends.
Mitchell always thought of Raudnask as his third daughter.
“His daughter, Jana, was my first friend and either she was at my place or I was at hers. We lived around the corner from each other,” she said. “Bill was a loving husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather and friend who loved his community. A neighbour of Bill’s said the other day that it won’t be the same without Bill driving by, waving or rolling down the window to say hello and I’m sure many could say that of him.”
Stoney Creek councillors Brad Clark, Brenda Johnson and Maria Pearson agreed Mitchell was a special man who did a lot for his community.
“He never talked about (the cancer). He kept fighting. He did his volunteer activities for the right reasons,” Clark said. “He was the founding member of SOS. He helped to create this organization to help seniors. They didn’t ask for funding, they just did it on their own. This program, God bless him, it will continue.”
“My heart goes out to the family,” said Johnson, choking back tears at the Oct. 23 council meeting. “All of Stoney Creek now has a huge void.”
Mitchell was recognized on both a local and national level for his contributions, earning the chamber of commerce’s 2001 Citizen of the Year Award and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.
“He got so many recognitions, but he didn’t do it for that,” Cage said.
Cage said Mitchell was “one of the greatest community volunteers” Stoney Creek has ever seen.
Asked what he’s going to miss most about his long-time friend, Cage said, “Bill was always somebody I could go and sit down and talk to and feel good at the end of the conservation. I wish I could be as good as he was.”