Underwood Mitchell, a man devoted to his faith, his family, his country, his community, and his craft, died Friday, July 28th. He was 97.
His death was the natural result of a long life well lived, filled with its share of triumphs and tragedies, his family said. Their wish is that he be celebrated, not mourned.
Born Edward Underwood Mitchell on Feb. 2nd, 1926, in Rosston, Nevada County, Arkansas, to Blanche Schooley and Earl Underwood Mitchell, he graduated from Willisville High School in 1943 before joining the Army in 1944. He served in the European theater during the final months of World War II and was honorably discharged in 1946.
Following the war, he attended the University of Arkansas on the G.I. Bill and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in agriculture. In 1950, he moved to Harrison with his first wife, Cora Ann Richardson, to raise a family and to work as an agriculture representative for Arkansas Power and Light (AP&L), now Entergy.
With Cora Ann, who died in 1959, he fathered Karen Ann Mitchell Sumner, Michael Burt Mitchell, and Katherine Fon Mitchell West.
In 1960, he married Lillian Juanita Sims, whose first husband, William Weedman, died in 1957, and adopted her two children, Gwen Weedman Hathcock and Gregory Norman Weedman.
In 1962, he fathered Thomas Underwood Mitchell.
He retired from AP&L in 1987 after 38 years. It was the only job he ever had.
During his retirement, he pursued his passion for woodworking, creating everything from toys and furniture to ukulele stands and the baptismal font in the sanctuary of The First Presbyterian Church.
He never sold one of his creations, choosing instead to donate his works to raise money for charity or give them as gifts. One of his most intricate pieces, a map of the United States, each state hand-crafted, featuring each state’s official quarter minted at the Denver and Philadelphia mints, began as a project to create a lasting treasure for his children and grandchildren. Later, in 2017, he donated one of his remaining maps for Harrison’s Make-A-Wish December fundraiser.
He was steadfast in his commitment to his community, serving as: a Boy Scout Master for three years; a volunteer for Share and Care for 16 years and a member of its board of directors for three; a Little League baseball coach for several years and board member and one-term president of the Consolidated Youth Association; a member of the Northwest Arkansas District Fair Board for 25 years and Fair Manager for two; a member of the Farm Bureau for more than 70 years; a deacon and elder of The First Presbyterian Church, and as property chairman for the new church building project, completed in 2007; and leader of PEPPI (Peer Exercise Program Promotes Independence) since 2015.
He was also a charter member of the Harrison Kiwanis Club, with a 65-year perfect attendance record. He served as president in 1961 and as secretary from 1994 – 2021, and was active in organizing Key Clubs in Harrison and Valley Springs.
In 2021, he established, with the Harrison Kiwanis Foundation, the Underwood Mitchell Scholarship Fund to assist students pursuing degrees in agriculture.
His awards from Kiwanis include the Zeller Award, for his commitment to philanthropic work; the Hixson Award, the Tablet of Honor, and the Legion of Honor for his service to Kiwanis.
In 2018, he was a recipient of the John Paul Hammerschmidt ”Men of Distinction” award.
He was preceded in death by his sister, Katherine; his first wife, Cora Ann; his second wife, Juanita; grandson Grant Edward West; and son-in-law Bill Sumner Jr.
In addition to his many friends, he is survived by his children, six grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren, all of whom will remember him fondly for his uncommon decency, as well as for his common flaws.
”Give and forgive,” Underwood would say.
Services will be held at the First Presbyterian Church, 915 South Maple St., at 11 am on Wednesday, August 2nd. A reception will follow.
In lieu of flowers, his family requests random acts of giving and forgiveness.
(Donations may be made to the Harrison Kiwanis Foundation, Underwood Mitchell Scholarship Fund, PO Box 983, Harrison, AR 72601; or to the First Presbyterian Church, PO Box 3260, Harrison, AR, 72601)