Cover photo for Neil Patrick Mitchell's Obituary
Neil Patrick Mitchell Profile Photo

Neil Patrick Mitchell

November 21, 1936 — August 23, 2016

Savannah, GA

Dr. Neil Patrick Mitchell passed away Tuesday, August 23, 2016, at Savannah Hospice House.  He was 79.  Dr. Mitchell practiced as a psychiatrist in Asheville, NC, and later in Fayetteville, NC, from 1966 until his retirement to Savannah, GA, in 2007. He leaves two daughters who will miss him. 

Neil Patrick Mitchell's life began in Southern Ireland, Galway on 21 November 1936.  He was one of three children.  Their dad was a carpenter who made some of the cabinetry in Galway Cathedral.  Neil had a traditional Catholic upbringing and went to a strict school run by priests. He was the pride of his family, going on to study medicine at Galway University where he worked assiduously.  He also had a strong interest in acting, and later would have to choose between a professional offer from Abbey Theatre in Dublin or medicine.  He chose to carry on studying, eventually specializing in psychiatry.

He moved to England where he met his future wife, Hilary.  A short time later, In the mid 60’s, they emigrated to the United States with their two small girls, a two-month-old and a two-year-old, in tow and settled in Asheville, North Carolina.  He embraced America. When their marriage ended, he brought up the children for 8 years as a single dad, which was hard, his daughter had a full childhood with some vivid memories:  His attempts at home cooking on the weekends (scrambled eggs) and the trips on Sundays to beauty spots and to visit friends in his diesel Mercedes, which needed a lot of coaxing to start up in the winter.

When his daughters returned to the UK, he moved to Fayetteville where he helped a lot of soldiers at the army base (although in Asheville he specialized in adolescent psychiatry).  He was a kind man and compassionate to his patients.

He loved horses and was a keen rider.  He also had lots of conversations with his neighbor's huskies in Savannah through the fence.   He was a maestro of frugal living, famous with us for his bulk food buying, and making full use of all possessions - even his pants.  He had a nice pair of silk ones which he once told his daughters were celebrating their 21st anniversary!

Well into his 60's, he discovered weight training and was a real enthusiast, having had not history of any interest in the sport, ever, and enjoyed telling his daughters how many pounds he was bench pressing in the gym.  

He was a very learned man with a voracious appetite for reading, and following his retirement pitched straight into a degree in history of architecture in NC. This studying continued in Savannah. His great interests were in politics, theatre, art, classical music, and he loved ballet. His daughters have lovely memories of going to the ballet with him whenever he visited them in the UK.

He retired from full time practice in 2002 and in 2007, he moved to Savannah, Georgia, where he set up a happy home.  His neighbors in Savannah describe him as a great neighbor, book lover, and someone who loved a good argument! He would often dispense advice, but at the same time was eager to learn about things he knew less about, one of these being home maintenance.  He showed tremendous interest in his friends’ home projects, and wanted to learn how to do the same things.  They talked about their connections to Ireland and they called him the "Professor" because he was always teaching them about different things. He told them to always say "hello" to people, be friendly, and take care of their teeth!

We invite you to share with us the passing of an extraordinary man.  Neil died with tremendous bravery, outraged to the last at any suggestion that he would not "graduate" from Hospice Savannah and return to school in the autumn.  The start date was on his calendar.  Whilst "incarcerated" at the hospice, as he saw it, Neil recruited a battalion of helpers, most unbeknownst to each other, in order to maintain his day to day business as he became incapacitated.  Each recruit would receive regular lists of precise instructions which required completion to the highest standard.  There was no actual demotion, as failure was not an option; but as speech failed, facial expressions made it very clear when levels of attainment were falling below what was expected.  A despairing shrug of the eyebrows, a furrowed brow and a grave shake of the head would let you know you were not up to scratch.  Recruits were rewarded with some tremendously engaging conversations whilst speech was still possible on politics, history, literature and the multiple evils of the state.

His neighbors and friends, Becky and Suzy, who Neil’s family is eternally grateful to in the truest sense, have made them laugh a lot at this sad time.  They seem to have truly "got" him, as did others who responded to his personality with awe, laughter and sometimes incredulity.

"Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light."  (Dylan Thomas)

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