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Obituary for James R. (Dick) Mitchell, Colonel, USAF (Ret.)

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James R. (Dick) Mitchell, Colonel, USAF (Ret.)

May 4, 1929 - May 4, 2015

James R. Mitchell, 86, died on May 4, 2015. He lived grudgingly side by side with multiple myeloma for 15 years until the cancer terminated the relationship. Dick was born in Ogden, Utah, the eldest child of Ralph M. and Louise Fisher Mitchell. He received primary and secondary education in Ogden, graduating from Ogden High in 1947 before attending Weber College for two years. Dick was elected student body president of his junior high and high school classes.

He served an LDS mission in California and upon returning married Helen Daines, also of Ogden. Dick and Helen later divorced. Together they had four children: Carey (Stephen) Dufner; John Richard Mitchell; Suzanne Mitchell; and Thomas Ralph Mitchell. Dick was never happier than when they were all on the ski slopes together.

Dick was an avid skier and ski racer and remained so for most of his life. He was captain of the University of Utah ski team and won the NCAA downhill title in 1953. He also won a place on the U.S. Olympic Ski Team and went to Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy in 1956.

He graduated from the University of Utah in Business Management in 1953, later returning to complete an MBA in 1967. After graduation in 1953 he entered the U.S. Air Force, serving his entire career as a fighter pilot in Europe and Asia, including Vietnam where he flew 149 combat sorties in an F-105 fighter bomber. During that war his plane was shot down once and disabled once due to a missile malfunction, forcing him to parachute into the jungle both times. Dick graduated first in the flying phase of his class at the Air Force Fighter Weapons (Top Gun) School at Nellis AFB in Las Vegas, Nevada. He also graduated from the USAF Air War College, the senior Air Force professional military school. During his military career Dick was awarded the Silver Star for valor in combat, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, ten Air Medals, two Bronze Stars, a Commendation Medal,  a Meritorious Service Medal and a Purple Heart.

While stationed in France from 1957 to 1960, he developed a love of the French language. He continued his study of the language until 1973 when, in part due to his fluency, he was appointed Assistant Air Force Attaché in the U.S. Embassy in Saigon. When South Vietnam fell to the communists on April 27, 1975, Dick was directly involved in the evacuation of American as well as Vietnamese military personnel and civilians. He was on the last helicopter out of Tan Son Nhut Air Base at midnight on that date.

Dick retired from active duty in 1977 with the rank of Colonel and lived in the San Francisco Bay area for several years, where he became an avid off-shore yacht racer. Always competitive and ready for adventure, he raced to Hawaii three times, once sailing his own 36-foot sloop single handedly using only celestial navigation. While stationed in Ohio he bought and raced a single-seat, open-wheel racing car and won four of the six races he entered.

Returning to Utah in 1980 and moving to Park City, Dick met and married Betty Rizzo. Together they had one son, Andrew, who became the pride and joy of Dick’s later life. Dick and Betty later divorced.

In Park City, Dick joined the local community theatre group where he participated as an actor in nine stage plays. He admitted to being the worst actor to ever hit town, but he had great fun. In Park City he also coached junior alpine skiers at the Canyons Resort. His longtime love affair with aviation prompted him to build his own airplane, a beautiful two-seat fast and sleek LANCAIR, which he loved to fly.

Also surviving Dick is a brother, Ralph W. (Bud) Mitchell and his wife Barrie; a sister, Mary M. Jensen and her husband Devon; and three grandchildren.

The family would like to thank the Huntsman Cancer Institute, VA Hospital, CNS Hospice and his many kind friends and neighbors who took such great care of our dad.

Friends and extended family may visit with the family on Friday, May 8, 2015 from 6:00 to 8:00 pm at Leavitt’s Mortuary, 836 36th Street, Ogden, Utah.

Funeral Services will be held Saturday, May 9, 2015 at 11:00 am at Leavitt’s Mortuary, 836 36th Street, Ogden, Utah.  There will be a viewing prior to services starting at 9:45 to 10:45 am at Leavitt’s Mortuary.

Interment in the Leavitt’s Aultorest Memorial Park, 836 36th Street, Ogden, Utah, where Military Honors will be accorded.

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Service Schedule

Visitation Information

Date: Friday, May 8, 2015

Time: 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Leavitt's Mortuary


836 36th Street , , Ogden, UT, 84403

Service Information

Date: Saturday, May 9, 2015

Time: 11:00 am -

Leavitt's Mortuary


836 36th Street , , Ogden, UT, 84403

Cemetery Information

Date: Saturday, May 9, 2015

Ogden City Cemetery


, , Ogden, UT,

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Military Honors will be accorded


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Timeline for James R. (Dick) Mitchell, Colonel, USAF (Ret.)

Born: May 4, 1929
Died: May 4, 2015

Condolences for James R. (Dick) Mitchell, Colonel, USAF (Ret.)

Tim and Mari Dougherty posted on 5/9/15

We send our condolences to Dick's Family. He was a good neighbor and we will sorely miss him. Dick loved the ducks migration every year and their visits to his house, property and pond nearby. Today, the day of his memorial service, I heard the ducks outside and saw them on Dick's roof. They called out three times, then flew off. I believe they were also saying their good-byes. Dick said many times he lived a full life, and he loved his children dearly. I am glad he got to celebrate his birthday and be with his family at the end.


gc posted on 5/9/15

Please accept my sincere condolences to the family. May the God of all comfort give you the comfort you need to endure this difficult time and the days ahead (2 Corinthians 1:3,4)


Rauli Karjalainen posted on 5/7/15

Dear Mitchell family, I only knew Dick from 2002 Olympics on where we both worked as volunteers and became fast and good friends walking on the memory lane of our Air Force careers. We later spent many days together at Snowbasin resort where Dick still skied like the downhiller that he always was, with grace and precision. Now he is undoubtedly flying low level over the jungle ridges of South East Asia scaring his wing men to death or speeding down the famous downhill courses of Europe with the world’s best. It was an honor to know Dick and be his friend. I will miss him sorely. Please accept my deepest sympathy for the loss of your father and family member. Rauli Karjalainen