Hastings County Historical Society

A Tribute to Elizabeth Mitchell

By Orland French

One day when Elizabeth Mitchell was assessing and filing some materials at the Archives Centre, she came across a surprising article about herself. You see, Elizabeth, according to her training, was supposed to be in a classroom. Except that, by choice she was working in the Belleville Public Library.
She had trained at the University of Toronto Faculty of Library Science for two years, then worked in the Royal Military College Library in Kingston before winding up in the reference room of the Corby Library in Belleville. It was where she preferred to be.
Later in life, she worked as a volunteer in the Community Archives of Belleville and Hastings County. In the midst of filing and assessing newspaper clippings, she discovered a clipping from the Belleville Intelligencer of November 1974, which quoted herself as saying,
“One of the nice things about working in the reference room is that it is a popular place for high school students to do homework. There are also a number of elderly people who come to read magazines and newspapers, and that makes for a pleasant atmosphere.” A photograph with the article shows her at work in the library.
Those pleasant days in the archives came to an end recently with Elizabeth’s death. She died of a brain tumour after a short stay at Hospice Quinte. Elizabeth passed away on July 17, 2023, at age 77, with her funeral held on July 26 at her beloved St. Thomas Anglican Church. A large crowd of friends and admirers paid tribute to her popularity as a strong and independent woman who loved her community. The Intelligencer obituary recalled how she sang, stitched, played the organ, gardened, painted and sketched her way through life.
Elizabeth Kathleen Mitchell was a stalwart and true member of the Hastings County Historical Society. For years she held guard over the membership records on the society. It was an appropriate way for this society volunteer to use her skills in managing spreadsheets and data. Past-President Richard Hughes commented, “For several years she managed the very heavy membership duties and kept impeccable records and ensured that all members were recorded and recognized. She was extremely well organized and carried her heavy duties always with a bright and cheerful disposition.” Her steady contribution no doubt contributed to the growth and success of the Society.
Elizabeth held sway at the entrance to the meeting room, with her box of membership IDs ready to be pinned on the lapels of arriving members. Getting some of us forgetful folk to turn them in at the end of the meeting was one of her clean-up chores.
The gatekeeper of the Historical Society has moved on to challenge a Gatekeeper of a Higher Calling. I’m sure she had no trouble presenting her credentials as a Complete and Quiet Citizen of the Quinte Community.

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