1939 William 2024

William Davis Mitchell

December 20, 1939 — June 29, 2024

Sonoita, Arizona

The Life of William Davis Mitchell

"Buffalo Bill"

Bill was born to Clarence and Lillian Mitchell on December 20th, 1939, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. After his birth they brought him home to Princeton, Minnesota, to join his brother Robert who was 8 years older. His father was a lawyer, and a state senator for twenty years. His mother, Lillian, was a schoolteacher before she married Clarence. Sadly, she passed away when Bill was in the 4th grade.

His mother’s absence from his life shaped the man Bill was to become. With a nurturing mom gone from the home, his dad busy at the State Capitol in Saint Paul, and his older brother Robert getting on with his adult life, Bill was left with time on his hands. Perhaps this is where he got his love of the outdoors. Many times, he talked of his childhood, playing and exploring the river bottoms along the Rum River barefoot.

Bill graduated from Princeton High School on May 24th, 1957, and went on to study broadcasting and communications at Northland College in Ashland Wisconsin. Shortly after meeting his first and only spouse Donna Mae Dunn, they married and had their first of five children, Wendelin or “Wendy”. After moving to Lexington, Nebraska, Bill became News Director at KRVN Radio. While living in Nebraska, Donna and Bill brought Robert and Jason into the world, and they were now a family of five. Bill continued to enjoy hunting on the Sand Hills of Nebraska for Mule Deer, and on the Platte River for ducks.

About 1970, they bought a fishing resort on Lake of the Woods, named Sunset Lodge. At that time, Bill and Donna had two more children, Nathan and Jennifer. Bill loved his duck blind and deer hunting, as well as black bears and wolves. And of course, walleye fishing. He spent his winters cross-county skiing and enjoying the great outdoors.

After the fishing season of 1977, with the hardships of the fuel embargos and gas shortages, Americans stopped traveling for vacations, so they packed up their family of seven and went to Brownsville, Texas, where Bill enrolled in farrier school. Now, the lure of the west was calling. Upon completion of school, the family moved to Shell Wyoming, where they had horses, cattle, goats, sheep, geese, and rabbits. On many days, the smell of the forge filled the air, and the ring of the anvil could be heard. In Wyoming, Bill enjoyed living in the foothills of the Big Horn Mountains, which provided deep sporting opportunities with the pursuit of antelope, deer, rabbits, and elk. Along with trout fishing, and trapping in the winter, it was a year-long way of life. After several years, and with the realization that most ranchers could shoe their own horses, and only troubled horses needed professional services, Bill adapted again, and went through a certified appliance repair course. Shortly after, Big Horn Appliance Service was up and running.

The year 1987 brought another chapter change for Bill and his family. The Northwoods was calling again. He purchased a fishing resort in the most remote region of Lake Vermillion near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area wilderness. He enjoyed visiting with guests and grouse hunting in his free time. He simultaneously started a new passion: Search and Rescue, EMS and fire response. A rescue boat was stationed at the docks of their Glenwood Lodge. Bill liked the excitement of the pager alerts and helping his community. He trained search and rescue dogs, and over the years helped to find many lost or deceased people. Some of the cases made national news. During the long cold MN winters, when the resort was closed, he would work logging equipment along with his son Jason. He enjoyed this work as well as the time in the woods with his son. The upkeep and guest service at the lodge became difficult. Bill and Donna sold the resort after 10 years of operation, and after 32 years of marriage they divorced and went their separate ways.

Bill later met a widowed lady who was an outdoors enthusiast and wildlife artist Doris Rusch, from Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. They shared a passion for upland bird hunting. He moved into her home where he maintained the grounds, cutting, splitting, stacking wood, and clearing trails to pass the time between hunting excursions for quail, antelope… and his favorite, bison hunting with his new partner a-field Doris. The winters became more uncomfortable for the aging pair, and they moved to the remote Sonoran Desert of Sonoita, Arizona. There he professionally trained retrievers for an award-winning kennel, until health issues closed that chapter in his life. Bill and Doris cared for each other every day, as the clock caught up with them. Long trips to the doctors and the struggle to maintain the home became a part of everyday life. They pressed on as a team, caring for each other always, until his last breath on Saturday, June 29, 2024.

On his final day, his grandsons Gavin and Patrick were there to say goodbye and express their love. His sons, Nathan, Jason, and his daughter Jennifer, were at his bedside at his final moment. His partner in adventure, Doris Rusch, and her daughter Jennifer Wendt, were at the home and came in moments later to mourn with Bill’s family

Ultimately, cancer is what claimed Bills earthly body. As he said, "It's just a vessel that carries my soul" His soul moved on to better hunting grounds in Heaven where it will live for eternity with Jesus. Bill was baptized June 3rd, 1972, in Lake of the Woods and was a lifelong believer in God the Father, Jesus the Son of God and the Holy Spirit. May they have mercy, and welcome his repentant soul to heaven forever.

Bill is survived by Daughter Wendelin (Bill) Hume of Reynolds ND, Son Jason (Jenny) Mitchell Sagle ID, Son Nathan (Marcie) Mitchell New Richmond WI, Daughter Jennifer (Dean) Mitchell-Betchold of Big Lake MN and his only brother Robert Mitchell of Lake Elmo MN

As well as 20 grandchildren and several great-grandchildren and Nephews Scott and Todd Mitchell and their families.

Graveside service at the Amiret Mn cemetary will be held Saturday July 13th at 1:00p.m.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of William Davis Mitchell, please visit our flower store.


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