By Christine Sampson
Many people knew Bruce T. Mitchell as a lifelong Sag Harbor resident and decorated 58-year volunteer with the Sag Harbor Fire Department. What they may not know is the former Murray Hill Fire Company captain, at age 79, was the driver of that company’s Truck 718 during the devastating Main Street fire on December 16, 2016.
Mr. Mitchell died on Sunday, November 26, at the age of 80 from leukemia.
“He was always there for everyone else, definitely a guy we could always count on,” Sag Harbor Fire Department Chief Bruce Schiavoni said.
Mr. Mitchell was born August 27, 1937, one of three sons of Godfrey and Charlotte Mitchell. He attended Pierson High School and entered the U.S. Army in 1956, serving for two years in Germany. Upon his discharge, he returned home and enlisted in the Army Reserve for a four-year term, and began what would be a 46-year career with Harold McMahon Plumbing Solutions in Amagansett. He retired in 2003.
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In 1965, Mr. Mitchell married Rosemary Trunzo, and later had one son, Michael Mitchell.
Having grown up on the water — “he was a true Sag Harbor man,” his wife wrote — Bruce Mitchell enjoyed clamming, and so his family would always enjoy his stuffed clams.
Mare Dianora and Claes Brondal, who lived next door to Bruce and Rosemary Mitchell for about 16 years, said they spent many wonderful times together at barbeques, clamming and more.
“They’re not just neighbors. They’re definitely family,” Ms. Dianora said. “The friendship between our family and his was not like anything I’ve ever had before. He was such a strong presence in our everyday life. He was like a grandpa to my kids. Everytime we saw them, he would have a juice or a piece of fruit handy for them.”
Mr. Mitchell joined the Sag Harbor Fire Department in 1959 and was the main driver on the Murray Hill truck “for as many years as I can remember,” Chief Schiavoni said.
Ms. Dianora said she will never forget the pictures she saw of Mr. Mitchell on the day of the Sag Harbor Cinema fire. “The pictures of him and the frozen truck — he stayed with those boys the entire day and was frozen to the bone. That’s the kind of guy he was,” she said.
Chief Schiavoni recalled a time a few years ago when Mr. Mitchell received the Chief’s Appreciation Award from the Sag Harbor Fire Department.
“I know that meant so much to him. He wasn’t one to ask for anything or want anything,” Chief Schiavoni said. “The whole department was so happy and excited that he received it. He was an all-around good guy and we are so sad to lose a gentleman like him.”
In addition to his wife of 52 years, his son Michael and daughter-in-law Melissa Mitchell, Mr. Mitchell is survived by his brother Fred Mitchell of Sag Harbor, grandchildren Tyler and Ava, and 12 nieces and nephews.
“He was a wonderful family person,” Rosemary Mitchell wrote. “There was always a funny story to tell and a smile for everyone. He will be missed by all who knew and loved him.”
A funeral service for Mr. Mitchell will be held at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday at Yardley and Pino Funeral Home, with burial to follow at Oakland Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, his family suggests donations in his memory may be made to Cormaria Retreat House in Sag Harbor, East End Hospice in Westhampton or the Sag Harbor Fire Department.