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Memorial: Samuel Underhill Mitchell

Trustee Samuel Underhill Mitchell died July 12, 2010 at the age of 78. Born August 27, 1931, the only child of Alice Underhill and Myron Colyer Mitchell, Sam lived and died in the home built by his parents in East Williston in 1933. Both parents descended from early Long Island families. Captain John Underhill, who arrived in Massachusetts Bay in 1630, was an ancestor.

Sam spent many enjoyable childhood hours at the farm of his grandfather Samuel S. Underhill, in Jericho, learning about farming life. After high school, he attended the Agricultural College at Cornell. While studying for final exams to graduate, his father died suddenly and Sam learned a harsh reality of life.

After graduation, he began by working at Young's Farm in Old Brookville and later for his uncle, Raymond Bailey in Glen Cove. However, his career was interrupted when he was drafted into the U.S. Army and served in the Signal Corps from 1954-1956. Upon his return, he saw that farms were fast disappearing in Nassau County and switched to banking, following his father's career. He joined the Roslyn Savings Bank in 1956 and retired in 1994 from Fleet Bank.

The Nassau County Historical Society benefitted greatly from Sam's energy and time. He served on the Board of Trustees for more than thirty years (president 1980-1983). One of his projects while president was building a replica of the original Mineola Fair office building on the relocated fair grounds at Old Bethpage Village Restoration. Sam's warm, friendly manner brought many new members to the Historical Society. His invitation to this writer to attend a program in February 1974 introduced me to the Society, for which I am forever grateful.

Sam gave willingly of his time for the benefit of others. He had many interests: East Williston, local history, and the county's agricultural heritage in particular. He was a driving force for the development of Old Bethpage Village Restoration (OBVR) and served many years with the Queens, Nassau, and Suffolk Agricultural Society which sponsors the annual Long Island Fair held at OBVR (president 1999-2010). Sam was active in the Glen Cove Rotary Club, Nassau Cornell Extension Board (25 years), East Williston Planning Board, the Underhill Society of America (trustee), and three cemetery boards (president). He also enjoyed travel, and usually included his mother on his trips. They travelled together until Alice was in her nineties. His many trips usually included visiting friends and "cousins," which in the Quaker tradition are many.

In early July of 2010, his doctor informed him that his cancer had spread beyond benefit of further treatment. Within twenty-four hours, Sam organized a "Celebration of Life" service on Sunday, July 11 at the Community Church of East Williston for a few friends who could be notified on such short notice. More than a hundred attended. Although weak, he spoke at length about his life and thanked those present for sharing their lives and love with him. In the Quaker tradition, others so moved, also spoke about how Sam had enriched their lives. Later he greeted everyone at a reception in the parish hall.

The following morning, he awoke and told his caretaker, Charlotte Charles, that he felt amazingly stronger and thought he might still continue on because he was so uplifted by Sunday's gathering at the church. Later, while resting, he died.

Sam's father was of the Dutch Reformed faith and a member of the Brookville Reformed Church. His mother was a Quaker and a member of the Jericho Friends meeting. As a child, Sam attended Sunday school at the Community Church of East Williston, a few blocks from his home. After his father's death, Sam attended Jericho Meeting with his mother. He referred to himself as a "convinced Quaker" and his mother as a "birthright" Quaker.

Sam planned the end of his earthly life. Less than a week after the Celebration of Life service at the East Williston Church, his funeral was at Jericho Meeting House, interment was at the Brookville Cemetery, next to his parents, and a reception followed at the Brookville Reformed Church. The wide range of guests present on these occasions is testimony to Sam's love and friendship for others, regardless of status, ethnicity, race, or religion. Sam’s surviving cousins and friends are legion. Many lives were enriched by Samuel Mitchell. He is sincerely missed. We have all lost a good friend.

Denward W. Collins, Jr.

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