Pro-lifer did everything
School caretaker, bus driver, factory worker, Santa Claus, Scout leader and Knights of Columbus member. There wasn't too much that Harold Mitchell didn't do in his 75 years.
But it was perhaps his pro-life work that was most important. The Cobourg, Ont. resident helped found the local right-to-life group, was active in fundraising and distributed literature at local malls, among other tasks.
Mitchell died at his home in Cobourg on May 11 after a lengthy illness. He was the father of four children and the grandfather of four more.
"He did anything that was asked of him," said Campaign Life Coalition national president Jim Hughes, who knew Mitchell for more than two decades. "He was one of the bedrocks who make this movement work."
Hughes went on to remember him as a barrel-chested man who had a great sense of humour and was gentle, yet had a sense of determination that was as strong as steel when it came to issues he felt passionately about.
"He did all kinds of stuff for us. He was amazing," said Hughes. "He was one of the many unsung heroes of the pro-life movement."
Mitchell's wife, Loretta, said it was likely her husband's involvement with the Knights of Columbus Catholic men's organization, for which he served a term as grand knight (leader) of a local council, that helped spark his involvement in the pro-life cause. Other factors included his relationships with Cobourg and area pro-life people, and Father Tom Lynch, the well-known pro-life priest from Toronto.
Mitchell single-handedly got a Squires movement going in Cobourg, which was sort of a precursor to Knights of Columbus membership for young men who had not yet reached the minimum age for joining the Knights proper.
He also helped found Cobourg Right to Life, which often brought in speakers from outside areas, including Lynch. In attempt to keep up with the latest happenings in the pro-life movement, he often travelled to Toronto.
In later years, he was a fixture at local malls, setting up booths and distributing pro-life literature to passers-by, and was instrumental in co-ordinating fundraising Christmas cake in his region sales in aid of Campaign Life Coalition.
He also grew his beard during the Christmas season, in preparation for an annual stint as the mall Santa Claus.
"He was the children's favourite Santa Claus," recalled Loretta. "They wouldn't go to anyone else because he'd always say, 'You try my beard.' They could never pull it off, so they knew he was the real Santa Claus. He did that for about four years, before he got sick."
Mitchell suffered two heart attacks, three strokes and from diabetes during his last four years and had difficulty getting around. Doctors didn't think he would live but, as Loretta said, he could never stay inactive and remained on the go with the help of a scooter.
In his last years, Mitchell assisted with making and repairing Rosary beads for his parish, as well as ordering various religious artifacts for those who wanted them. With his physical heart working at only 30 per cent capacity, it finally gave way recently.
Mitchell's funeral Mass was held at St. Michael's church, with interment at St. Michael's cemetery in Cobourg. The family asked that donations in his memory be made to Campaign Life Coalition.