LEWISTON — F. Emerson Mitchell, 99, of Gray, died Jan. 15, at Marshwood Center, following a brief illness.
He was born in 1913, into a large family on a farm in Litchfield, son of Frederick and Mabel (Benson) Mitchell. Emerson learned early the traditional values of hard work, personal honor and love of family. He took over the farm management at an early age and in 1940, brought his wife, Hilda (Small) home to the family farm, where they happily raised chickens and started their own family.
The move in 1946 to a poultry farm in Lisbon Falls made it possible for him to grow both the business and the family, until eventually there were seven children and three large hen houses. During this time, he got his high school GED and took additional agricultural courses at the University of Maine. He switched from laying hens to market hens, began grinding his own grain, had interests in other farms and became one of the leading poultrymen of the state.
Later, as a selectman in the town of Lisbon, he was introduced to property assessment and after more studies at Bowdoin College, he left farming in midlife and became an accredited tax assessor for the town of Gray in 1970. Here, he stood out as a man of integrity and courage, doing regular reassessments required by state law to bring valuations into line with market values and coming under fire from taxpayers for whom this was a new idea. Retiring after 13 years, he left behind a record of accuracy and impartiality.
Emerson and Hilda both loved the Maine outdoors, wildlife and hiking and took many trips with their family, teaching them these same joys, along with a love of singing harmony. Emerson spent many hours with a child or grandchild on his lap, naming the trees and animals in picture books and later walking through the woods with them, sharing his love of nature. He loved to read, loved to quote and misquote poetry and was an avid Red Sox fan.
He leaves a son, Granville Wayne Mitchell of Gray; daughters, Winifred Sweet of Valparaiso, Fla., Patricia Lapidus of Bantam, Conn., Meredith Ward of Madison, Brenda Schaff of Gray, Rhoda Mitchell of Santa Fe, N.M., and Deborah Thompson of Scarborough; 15 grandchildren; 11 great-grandchildren; and one great-great-grandchild.
Emerson was predeceased by Hilda, his wife of 72 years; brothers, Arthur Mitchell and Elmer Mitchell; and sisters, Helen Tingley Benson, Lola Waterman Sigel, Alice Fields, Marjorie Tucker and Marion Maddocks.