Phyllis Darlene Mitchell
Nov 11, 1921 – Jun 4, 2017
Phyllis Darlene (Pahl) Mitchell
Phyllis Darlene Mitchell was born Phyllis Pahl in Cambridge Nebraska, November 11, 1921, the 4th of 6 children to Art and Mary Pahl.
As a child growing up on prairie farms in Nebraska, Phyllis loved to learn—couldn't get enough of school and often skipped ahead in class to kibitz what the older kids were studying in their rural one-room school house. (One time she even listened to her older brother's class so intently that she “blew her cover” and inadvertently raised her hand to answer one of their questions.)
That passion to learn soon evolved into a desire to teach, which she would pursue through rigorous Rural School teaching curriculum in high school.
Her parents lived too far away from Wilsonville high school for her to commute, so each year from 9th grade on she had to find a place closer to town to work for room and board. This challenge led her to transfer her senior year to Holbrook High, where Phyllis would be elected class president. She was also valedictorian and was awarded two college scholarships, though tight finances and a desire to begin teaching precluded her from using them.
Armed with a Beginning Teacher's Certificate, 17-year-old Phyllis began her teaching career right out of high school—no college necessary at that time--and for the next 6 years taught in one-room schools similar to the ones she had once attended. On her first day as a teacher in September, 1939 a box of supplies from the Gosper County Superintendent had a quotation written on the outside, which would become her motto for life “I will either find a way, or make one” - Hannibal.
While taking summer classes in 1942 in Kearney, Nebraska, a chance visit from a former high school classmate named Clifford Mitchell would alter the course of Phyllis's life forever. The tall serviceman approached her on the street and the way Clifford would later tell it: “I said 'May I carry your groceries, Ma'am?' as I took her sack, and I've been carrying them ever since!” And indeed, that brief meeting was the start of their lives together.
Just after VE day in spring of 1945, lured by much higher wages than a rural school teacher earned, Phyllis took a job as a telegraph operator for the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad. The job involved much more than just sending and receiving telegraphs--she would operate her small station alone and often at night seven days per week. Even when the Operators Union won its members a six-day week Phyllis would travel around to 5 different stations giving 6 different operators their days off but when it was her turn she had to take a slow local freight train caboose for most of Sunday to get back to her Monday assignment. So much for her day off. By that time in early 1946 her “nesting syndrome,” as she later called it, was definitely setting in. In one whirlwind week in mid-April 1946 Phyllis and Clifford began to put a frenzied plan into action.
Phyllis Pahl would marry Clifford Mitchell in Wilsonville Methodist Church on April 20, 1946.
Clifford's career as a United Airlines technician led them to San Francisco and a son named Rodney Allen in 1947. A transfer to Seattle soon led to another son, Winston Gary in 1948, and later their 3rd and final son Robert Lynn in 1951.
Phyllis would work in United's flight kitchen preparing “delicious meals planned by Swiss chefs” from 1958 until her retirement in 1981.
In addition to her family, her passions in later life included writing, painting, traveling, genealogy, and the Seattle Mariners:
Phyllis wrote extensive memoirs about her travels to five different continents.
Her interest in genealogy led to courthouses, libraries and even grave yards across the USA sleuthing and documenting previously unknown ancestors. Years of research even led to a book about Clifford's family tree that identified a revolutionary war vet who spent the winter of 1777 at Valley Forge with General George Washington, and Lord Baltimore, the first governor of Maryland. A new network of friends and distant relatives and the now-annual Brown Family Reunion are a result of that research and publication.
At age 93 she authored and with the help of her writing instructor, Joan Tornow, published a book entitled “Growing up on Prairie Farms” all about her “Rough and Tumble Childhood” in Nebraska. Her lifelong painting interest and talent was prominently displayed with Phyllis holding an iconic portrait of her father on the back cover.
And though it was never easy to keep this hard working Nebraska farm girl sitting in one place for very long she always found a way to be in front of a TV when the Seattle Mariners were playing.
Phyllis Darlene Mitchell was preceded in death by her 5 siblings Harold Pahl, Camilla Orvis, Herschel Pahl, Melva Rucker and Glenda Shultz; and her loving husband Clifford Mitchell and son Rodney Mitchell. She is survived by 2 sons, 6 grandchildren, and 10 great-grandchildren.
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