Doris Mitchell

SENSIBLY dressed and her expression alert, Doris Mitchell who has died aged 95 was a diminutive power house, packed with energy and ideas.

Doris Mitchell

She was known as “Squirrel”, a sobriquet that stuck because it suited her so well, but it was neither her size nor bustling about that earned it.

Her sense of duty and commitment to helping others throughout her life was based
on a strong Christian belief, together with her understanding of the Girlguiding Promise and Laws.

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She was a member of the movement from when she was 10, and 83 years later was an active member of the Trefoil Guild and was still visiting Brownie and Guide units.

She held positions at local, county, region and national level and was the holder of the Beaver Award, one of the Association’s highest awards.

Born Doris Gertrude Fenton in Bradford, she was brought up in Roundhay, Leeds, and encountering the philosophy of education devised by Friedrich Froebel, on leaving school she went to the Froebel Training College in Bedford.

From there she went to Ripon St John’s Training College, and then into teaching.

With her love for and empathy with children, later in life she used her expertise as a trained Froebel teacher to become the Adviser for England for the mentally handicapped (as it was known then).

She was a Guiding trainer who travelled widely, after the war, with a mobile team to encourage the expansion of Guiding. She also carried out training in Holland and Malta.

A gifted speaker, she made known to many post-war leaders the work of the Guide International Service.

The service was set up to enable Guiders from all walks of life to provide relief work in camps after the war, known initially as the “Army of Goodwill”.

Mrs Mitchell travelled, with her team, to Germany, where she worked in displaced persons camps, their inmates from across Europe, and all with harrowing stories.

In one of the camps, she was asked to be godmother to a Polish child who later went to live in Australia, and 40 years after being in the camp,, she traced Mrs Mitchell to her home in North Yorkshire, and the two were reunited.

How Mrs Mitchell came to be known as “Squirrel” dates back to when she was taking part in a strenuous and exacting selection process for the Guide International Service.

In her own words: “We were told tents would not be used
– we must build our own
shelters on the moor, heavy rain forecast.

“I saw a tree which had parallel branches five feet up between which a hammock could be
slung and covered with
bracken. My squirrel’s drey
was thatched and I was one of the few with a dry bed in the morning.”

After her time in Germany, she returned to the UK to marry Bill Mitchell, an engineer – a marriage that lasted happily for many years. Wherever her home was, she became involved in her local church and community, serving on many committees.

Thirlby, near Thirsk, was the last to benefit from her enthusiasm, warmth and energy.

There she ran youth clubs for the village children, using the Village Hall and her own garden for activities.

She led by example, instilling qualities of respect and fairness together with a love of nature and the outdoors.

Her influence extended to hundreds of people, of all ages, who saw in her life that helping others can be both rewarding and a joy.

Always ready for a challenge, she took up bridge in her
80s.

When asked in her 90s what
her interests were she said,
“other people, local history,
bridge, crafts and, of course, Guiding”.