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Obituaries

May 10, 2011

Earl Nelson ‘Mitch’ Mitchell

DURHAM, N.C. — Earl Nelson “Mitch” Mitchell, 84, was called to his heavenly home on May 1, 2011.

“Mitch” was born in Centerville on Aug. 30, 1926, to Earl and Nina Mitchell. After attending high school there, he entered the United States Navy, completing the Radio Technology program. He received both a B.A. and a M.S. in Physics from the University of Iowa and continued his schooling at the University of Minnesota, where he received his Ph.D. in Physics in 1955. It was also in that year that he married Marlys Marie Panning, of Hamburg, Minn.

Having worked at Sperry-Rand for three years, Dr. Mitchell went on to teach at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks for several years. He then accepted a position in the Physics Department at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, where he taught until his retirement in 1991. During this time, he published numerous professional papers and a textbook called “Photographic Science,” in 1984.

Lesser known writings of Mitch’s, though certainly well remembered, were the missives that came annually with the “Mitchell Christmas Letter.” The love of writing was only one of his hobbies; more notably, he practiced and taught photography and winemaking. His “Wines and Vines” class was quite popular. He also enjoyed counseling his students, and felt that the main reward of his teaching career was the opportunity to continually interact with young people.

He and Marlys often entertained family and friends at the “Mitchell Vineyard.” There, they practiced the science of wine production, experimenting with many varieties of muscatels, French hybrids and venifere grapes. Mitch was instrumental in forming the North Carolina Winegrowers Association in 1993, and was a member of the North Carolina Grape Council, and the American Society for Enology and Viticulture. “Mitchell wine” was never sold, but given as a gesture of friendship to many, also generously supplying wine for the service of Holy Eucharist at their church.

Mitch was a longtime member of Grace Lutheran Church in Durham, N.C. He served the congregation in many capacities. He knew the Lord Jesus as his Savior and Redeemer, and his family confidently commit him to the Lord’s eternal care. Special thanks to his dear friends, who cared for him so lovingly over the past few years.

He was preceded in death by his wife of over 50 years, Dr. Marlys M. Mitchell, in 2008, who also taught at the University of North Carolina for many years. He is survived by his sister, Leanne McConville, of Sisters, Ore.; several “in laws”; two cousins; 12 nieces and nephews; and a plethora of friends who loved him very much.

A memorial service will be conducted on June 11 at 11 a.m., at Grace Lutheran Church, 824 N. Buchanan Blvd., Durham, N.C.

Memorials may be directed to the “Saints of Grace Fund” at the church, or to the “Sing For Joy” program through Mitch’s favorite local radio station, WCPE, P.O. Box 897, Wake Forest, NC 27588.

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