Eight Bells: Dick Mitchell

Eight Bells: Dick Mitchell Image

Richard (Dick) Flannery Mitchell, 66, of Cazenovia, NY passed away on December 12, 2023, after a year-long struggle with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). Dick was born December 10, 1957 to Heidi Flannery and W. Ledyard Mitchell, Jr. of Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan. Dick earned his Bachelor’s degree at Michigan State University and his MBA at The Ohio State University.

 Dick was a lifelong athlete as he enjoyed skiing, biking, playing tennis and golfing with family and friends, but it was sailing that was his true passion.   He started racing in Grosse Pointe Michigan, crewing for his brother Trip where they represented the family well, taking 2nd in the Buccaneer Nationals (Trip’s and Dick’s Dad worked for Chrysler Marine Division and was very proud of his boys doing so well in the Chrysler built boat!).  The Mitchell brothers also raced 470’s where Dick learned to come off the wire to settle tactical debates with brotherly rounds of boxing.  

Out of Trip’s shadow, Dick spent 4 years traveling the Midwest and beyond sailing for Michigan State University. He was the only collegiate skipper known to escape the mooring buoy death hook at the Timme Angsten Memorial Regatta at Chicago Yacht Club with an incredible athletic leap to unhook the main sheet and avoid the icy waters of Lake Michigan. Dick handled the amazing feat with his wry smile and mild manner, “Ah shucks, it was nothing”.  During his 4 years as starting skipper at Michigan State Dick was twice an All American nominee.

After college he continued racing in the Midwest and started sailing Snipes.  It was traveling to Snipe regattas that Dick met Maureen Hays who would become his bride.  Dick and Maureen raced their Snipe for many years while living in Columbus, Cleveland, Burlington, Boston, and after settling in Cazenovia, NY.  Dick and Maureen were very successful racing their Snipe #25676 with the notable accomplishment of winning the Bolde Mothers regatta on Cuba Lake, NY (Dismal Valley, USA, Maureen’s home lake) a record 8 times!

Dick also was instrumental in the building of Shore Sails in the Midwest.  He helped build the Shore Sails Midwest One Design loft in Columbus, and opened the Cleveland big boat loft.  He then did a stint in Burlington Vt, helping rebuild and open the Shore Sails loft after a devastating fire.

 In Cazenovia, Dick and Maureen raised their 2 sons, Zack and Eli, and Dick built his career as Global Operations Manager with the Remote Visual Inspection Technology Unit of Welch Allyn, Inc and later GE.  In Caz, he was very active at Willow Bank YC where he raced his Laser, helped build the Laser fleet and started weeknight racing there.  Dick raced his Laser in regional and national regattas and notably won the 2022 Henderson Harbor Laser regatta, which turned out to be his last regatta as he was in early stages of ALS.

   While Dick had significant achievements sailing, more notable were his gentle midwestern demeanor and commitment to community.  In retirement, Dick joined the Cazenovia Volunteer Fire Department and worked hard to master skills required.  Dick helped in all the official capacities on boards, running races, serving on committees, and more.  But beyond that, he was truly a gentleman-sportsman, and just wonderful to be around.  Dick leaves a profound legacy and will be missed.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated 12:00pm, Friday, January 26, 2024 at St. James RC Church in Cazenovia, NY. Contributions in Dick’s memory may be made to the Cazenovia Ski Club and the Cazenovia Fire Department at the following addresses. (Cazenovia Fire Foundation, 121 Albany St, Cazenovia, NY 13035); (Cazenovia Ski Club, c/o Jim King, 201 West Genesee St, PMB #293, Fayetteville, NY 13066).



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