Robert James Mitchell, a retired Baltimore County building contractor and a one-time trainer for the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, died
Wednesday of a cerebral hemorrhage at his home, “Dogwoods,” in Glen Arm. He was 81.
Aside from a stint at Fort Benning, Ga., Mr. Mitchell spent his whole life in Maryland. Born in the Forest Park section of West Baltimore. Mr. Mitchell was the son of Robert John Mitchell and Leona Edna Brooks. His mother was a descendant of John West, a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses, the first government of English colonists in North America.
Mr. Mitchell graduated from Forest Park High School in 1949 and attended the University of Maryland before he was drafted to serve in the Army in 1951 during the Korean War. He played lacrosse and ice hockey as a student.
While in the Army, he was assigned to the 508th Regimental Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne Division and suffered a serious neck fracture from a nighttime training parachute jump. He taught at the Fort Benning jump school until 1953, when he was released from active duty and transferred to the Army Reserve for eight years.
Mr. Mitchell worked for his father-in-law before he founded Mitchell Construction Co., a firm that built houses in the Towson area for many years. During a slump in the housing industry, Mr. Mitchell began a new career as a business productivity consultant, becoming a principal in Synergetics, a privately owned national and international consulting firm based in New Hampshire. His clients included Kellogg’s, Firestone, Mrs. Smith’s and Hughes Aircraft.
Mr. Mitchell was first married to the former Nancy Krager, who died in 1987.
Their daughter, Leslie Ann, lives in Lutherville.
He married his second wife, the former Diane G. Howell, in 1990. Besides their home in Glen Arm, Mr. and Mrs. Mitchell maintained homes in Shady Side and Naples, Fla.
Mrs. Mitchell said her husband was patriotic and proud of his military service. She described him as a big fan of Corvettes and of his Amazon Kindle, which he used to read novels and books on politics, business and history. He also collected dictionaries, researched the roots of words, and liked to take things apart so he could learn how to put them back together, she said.
“He was very much of a realist and proud of facing any problem or adversity head on,” Mrs. Mitchell said. Behind his no-nonsense facade, she said, he was a kind man with a tender heart.
Mr. Mitchell’s brother-in-law, H. Thomas Howell, said that Mr. Mitchell traveled in the United States and abroad for his work with Synergetics and that in retirement he wanted to stay close to home.
But Mr. Howell said Mr. Mitchell couldn’t resist adventure. Several years ago, Mr. Mitchell began traveling the world on cruise ships with his family, visiting the Caribbean, Argentina, Chile, Tahiti, Australia Australia and New Zealand, among other places.
“He was the first passenger off; he wanted to see things and do things,” Mr. Howell said.
A memorial service with military rites will be held at Ruck Towson Funeral Home, 1050 York Road, Towson, at 1p.m. Saturday.
In addition to his wife and daughter, Mr. Mitchell is survived by a granddaughter. A brother and a sister preceded him in death.
[The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore, MD, 30 Jan 2012, Mon, Page A10]