My Dad: Oakey Mitchell

This Sunday is Father’s Day, a day when we will honor our fathers and celebrate fatherhood, paternal bonds and the influence of fathers in society.

Local resident, Bruce Mitchell, enjoyed a close bond with his dad growing up and fortunately is able to continue that bond and friendship today. He has been celebrating Father’s Day with his dad, Oather “Oakey” Mitchell for 43 years and now, with his five-year-old son, Samuel, he said that it was his father’s upbringing and influence that gives him the guidance with raising his son. “My father’s examples and lessons have helped shape me into the man that I am today,” he said. “I find myself teaching my son those same lessons; honor, respect, treating people as you want to be treated, dedication to faith and making memories that will last a lifetime.”

Mitchell resides in Chester with his wife Sarah, and their son, Samuel, within a half-mile of where his father grew up. His father’s parents, both deceased, Oather “Oakey” Mitchell II and Katherine Cox, raised three children. He was the only boy.  Mitchell III has been married to his wife, Thelma, for 45 years this August.

They raised five children; two boys and three girls. Debbie Mabe and Sylvia Crosby, both living in Chesterfield; Tracy Watts of Manteo, N.C.; David, who passed away from cancer December ‘05 at his home in Surry County, Va., and Bruce. Adding to the family, they have four grandchildren.

“My father has core values that had carried him through his life and business and that is to treat people with respect, hold true to your word and a handshake was better than a contract,” said Bruce. “While operating his business, he always went above and beyond for his customers.”

Mitchell III began working at a very young age, working many jobs in Chester, such as delivering newspapers, working at the Chester Supermarket and Safeway and at Ft. Lee. In 1971 he opened an authorized Gulf Oil retail service center, Mitchell’s Automotive, where Chester Muffler and Brake Shop now operates.

Mitchell remembers his dad worked very long hours offering numerous automotive services, such as a full-service gasoline station, radiator and air-conditioning services and providing towing and recovery for Chesterfield Police Department. “As a teenager, I recall my father responding to crash scenes during all hours of the day and night,” he said. “I also recall him helping numerous customers as they needed assistance during inclement weather.” Mitchell III opened a second location in Enon, Enon Chevron, which provided an opportunity for his son David and his family to operate an automotive repair business. Mitchell closed the Chester location in the 1990s and eventually closed the Enon location and retired in 2007.

“I am amazed by my father’s work ethic and dedication to others namely his family and friends,” said Mitchell. “He took a leap of faith when leaving his job at Ft. Lee for the uncertainties of operating his own business, all the while raising five children. Most of us today would fold under that type of pressure. Instead, he grew a business and provided a good life and opportunity for his family.”

Mitchell has fond memories of his dad as a child, but also rocky ones as a teenager. “Some of my fondest memories as a child include spending weekends at our place on the Chesapeake Bay fishing and boating, canoeing on the upper James River and hunting in the mountains,” he said. He also has fond memories of long road trip vacations to places like Disney World and the Kennedy Space Center.

Like most dads that worry if their sons will make it through the teenage years, Mitchell’s dad was no different. “I would say that our relationship during the teenage years was normal and not much different than most dads worrying if their son will ever grow up.” he said. “We had a very loving and tight bond in my younger years. As I became a teenager, like most, I began to want to make decisions on my own. As I got into my 20s I began to appreciate my father’s wisdom, advise and, of course, his discipline. There’s always the struggle between sons and fathers, but we are closer for it.”

“I am forever grateful for my father and the life-lesson he taught me,” he said. “I am inspired by his ability to take on responsibilities and to see them through. A day does not go by that I don’t think of him and feel blessed to have him as a father.”


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