Palmetto Bay will post on its official village website links to a video interview featuring Tom Mitchell, the South Florida pioneer whose role in the community resulted in the naming of Mitchell Drive (SW 144th Street) for him and his family.
The interviews with Mitchell were completed not long before he passed away on June 16 and were part of a project coordinated by the village’s Historic Preservation Board. In the video, Mitchell relates anecdotal stories of his youth in the South Dade area, interspersed with rare vintage photographs and a musical background.
Julie Richardson, Mitchell’s niece, was very close to him and also had interviewed him earlier when she was researching an article she wrote on her family history that was published in the 2004 Tequesta of the Historical Association of Southern Florida — “The Mitchells of South Dade: A Pioneer Saga.”
“My Uncle Tom was a very special guy,” Richardson said. “He lived life to the fullest and enjoyed it — a good long life. He was a great resource for the early history of Cutler and Kendall as he was born on a dairy farm in 1919 in what is now Pinecrest. I loved listening to his entertaining and interesting stories of the early days. I miss him.”
Richardson said that Mitchell’s great grandmother, Fanny Near, had settled on the Perrine Grant in 1896, the year Miami was incorporated as a city. Mitchell worked on the family dairy farm, lived through the Great Depression, after which he turned to farming tomatoes and other vegetables. After serving as an Army paratrooper in World War II, Mitchell returned to his job as an electrical worker, even helping to build FPL’s Turkey Point facility in 1968.
Following a disability, he joined with his brother Ed in 1975 to launch the largest mango production operation in the United States, Mitchell Mangoes.
Mitchell was 92 when he died, had stayed as active as possible throughout his life and was greatly involved in the community. His funeral service was at Christ Fellowship Church in Palmetto Bay on June 25.
Links to the completed video may be found on the village’s website, at www.palmettobay-fl.gov/ and also on its Facebook page.