BARNARD — There will be a memorial service for Mark Mitchell, who died after a year-long battle with lung cancer on Oct. 26, 2011 will be held Nov 19 at 2 p.m. at Woodstock’s St. James Church, followed by a reception at Norman Williams Public Library.
Born in London in 1934, Mitchell’s family moved to Ireland during World War II, and to the United States after the war.
He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1956, served in the U.S. Army for two years, and then from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design in 1962.
Mitchell was married in 1957 to teacher and Professor of Education, Sarah L. Mitchell. They have three sons, Christopher, Adam and Ben, who continue to live in Vermont and Massachusetts.
Mark Mitchell practiced Architecture in Boston and Cambridge, MA for over twenty years before moving to Vermont. During those years he was in partnership with Ron Gourley and Carl Richmond. Among his many architectural accomplishments, he won the competition for the Finnegan Recreational Center at the Massachusetts Hospital School, built in Canton, MA, and major work for The Wheaton College Library and Science Center.
As an architect devoted to the principles of Modernism, Mitchell lived his life driven by an almost unquenchable desire for simplicity of design. This simplicity is perhaps most clearly epitomized by his seamless application of Universal Design in the accessibility renovation of Woodstock’s St. James Church, but can be found in houses and additions peppering the Barnard landscape. Focusing the preponderance of his professional energy on the design of public libraries, Mitchell was instrumental in the building of 36 libraries nationwide, including the expansion of the Norman Williams Public Library in Woodstock. Mitchell believed the public library represents our collective commitment to intellectual freedom, welcoming all people, regardless of belief or background into the free exchange of knowledge and understanding. In his design for the Library in Haverhill Massachusetts, Mitchell included a comfortable lounge with free coffee for the homeless, a seminal example of what has come to be known as Process Architecture.
His deep appreciation for inclusion and free exchange was visible also in his commitment to public service. Elected in 2006 to the Vermont House of Representatives, Mitchell was proud to have participated in the expansion of rights and opportunity, including the right to marry for all citizens, and the movement towards universal health care. When stepping down from the Legislature this past spring, John Gregg quoted State Rep. Margaret Cheney, a Norwich Democrat and committee colleague with whom Mitchell frequently carpooled, “He has taught us so much about facing death with spirit and wisdom,” she said. Gregg went on to quote Mitchell himself in his official announcement on the floor of the house who said, “I will miss you all but have faith that the future of Vermont is safe in your hands with your dedication to just and humane causes. These qualities will survive us and carry on after we have all gone.” Mitchell was a man of great sophistication and intellect, who valued substance over appearance, integrity over comfort and human connection over material reward.
Those wishing to honor the memory of Mark Mitchell can renew their commitment to the public good by offering support to our local libraries, or to the Norman Williams Library in Woodstock, VT.
This obituary first appeared in the Novmember 3rd print edition of the Vermont Standard.
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