Lost Lives: Arthur Mitchell, Longtime Industrial Arts Professor and Renowned Craftsman

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One of a series of casual portraits of people COVID-19 has taken from us.

Arthur Mitchell was a dedicated industrial art teacher and renowned craftsman who designed and crafted one-of-a-kind furniture, including his own casket.

Arthur mitchell Courtesy of Jaime Ranger

The casket remained in his studio for several years until Thursday, when Mitchell was buried in a family cemetery on his property in Temple, a town in Franklin County just outside Farmington. He was 86 years old.

Mitchell died of complications from COVID-19 at Maine Medical Center in Portland on May 6, according to the state’s medical examiner’s office. He died two months after receiving his second dose of Moderna vaccine, according to an immunization record provided by his family.

Arthur Mitchell vaccination record. Courtesy of the Mitchell family

Such cases are extremely rare. Mitchell is one of four Mainers to die from COVID-19 after being fully immunized, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

As of May 14, the state had recorded 319 cases of COVID-19 among fully vaccinated Mainers. This means that about 99.95% of all people in Maine (640,361) who received their last dose of the vaccine did not receive COVID-19, according to state statistics.

“No vaccine is 100 percent,” said her daughter, Margaret Mitchell Staggs. “I know his body suffered a lot from an infection it had before COVID. Maybe he was fighting more than we knew.

Mitchell was a teacher for 25 years. He spent most of his career teaching industrial arts at Mount Abram High School in Salem Township. He taught a variety of subjects, including drawing and math. He also coached the school’s baseball and track teams. His daughter said on Tuesday that he was a strict but fair teacher who was respected by the students.

“The students liked to be around him,” she said. “He was a very endearing teacher. Many of the students who attended his classes didn’t necessarily like school. He had so much knowledge. He liked to see people learn and discover new things. He always liked challenges.

Arthur Mitchell and his wife Donna. Courtesy of Jaime Ranger

He was married to Donna Mitchell for 56 years. The two teachers, they met in Connecticut during an orientation for new teachers. They were married in a small log cabin chapel in Rockwood in Moosehead Lake in July 1964. They have raised four children and have lived in Temple for the past three decades.

Mitchell was an avid fly fishing enthusiast. He tied his own flies and enjoyed wading downstream, fishing for brook trout. In recent years he has been fishing by canoe throughout the Temple area.
“It wasn’t just about catching. It was the experience and the relationship to nature. Fly fishing was his religion, ”his obituary stated.

Mitchell has always had a passion for woodworking. His daughter said he got interested in woodworking when he was 12, and eventually took on challenges ranging from building a violin to building his own coffin.

He was an internationally renowned craftsman who designed and manufactured handcrafted furniture with traditional carpentry of yesteryear. After retiring, Mitchell and his wife fulfilled a long-held dream of starting a business, WA Mitchell Furniture Makers, in a workshop next to their home in Temple.

The Mitchell’s have worked together to produce their unique quality furniture and run their business with integrity and passion.
“It was their dream,” Staggs said. “Dad did the design and the build. My mother did the office work and the orders. They were together as much as they could be and they enjoyed it.

Mitchell sold his business. His designs are now sold at WA Mitchell Chairmakers in Farmington. Staggs said his father stayed involved with the business and spent time in the shop mentoring the guys who worked there.

Mitchell faced health problems last winter. He received his second dose of Moderna vaccine on March 8. He woke up on March 24 feeling ill and went to hospital by ambulance. Staggs said his father developed an infection at the site of a shoulder replacement surgery he had more than five years ago. Doctors removed the equipment from his operation and sent him home with antibiotics.

On April 22, Mitchell became weak and was taken to hospital, where he tested positive for COVID-19. Staggs tearfully reflected on their last conversation.

“He said, ‘I know I’m sick, but I feel really good. I am not in pain. He says, “I know people don’t always do well with a fan, but I’m going to fight like hell and either it’ll work or it won’t,” Staggs recalls. “That’s who he was.”

Mitchell died on May 6 and was buried in the coffin he built and was buried in a family cemetery on his property in Temple. Staggs said the guys his father mentored at the workshop dug his grave by hand. She started to cry.

“How do you say thank you for that,” Staggs said. “My father was a very humble person. I don’t think he realized what he meant to everyone in his life.

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