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Life on California's beautiful Central Coast

Archive for November, 2012

Renton Mitchell: 1926-2012

Thanks to my father for the following, celebrating the life of my late grandfather.

Renton Mitchell died November 10, 2012, of Alzheimer’s disease. Born in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1926, his family soon moved to Belfast, Northern Ireland, where he grew up.

In 1942, just turned sixteen, he lied about his age to enlist in the British Navy. Just days before D-Day, he was a signalman on a landing craft, part of the invasion force, when he was pulled out to train new signalmen. After the war was over, Renton went back to sea as a civilian.

He circumnavigated Antarctica on a whaling ship, seeing the march of the penguins first hand. In 1950, he decided to try his luck in America. Renton came to Solvang as a newly minted deputy sheriff in 1961, deftly handling the trivial and the tragic. He wrote a report when someone rustled famed actor Jimmy Stewart’s cow, he dealt with the crash of a P-38 airplane on the Chamberlin Ranch, and when Edie Sedgwick died from a barbiturate overdose, Renton and Sheriff Jim Webster broke the news to her parents.

In 1963, he married Doris Christiansen Doll. He was a deputy sheriff for twelve years before launching a successful real estate career, working with numerous celebrity clients. He was active in the Solvang Business Association, and a sought-after emcee of charity fundraisers, co-chair of Danish Days in 1967, chairman in 1968. Renton and Carl Birkholm initiated the sister city relationship with Aalborg that Solvang enjoys today.

Photogenic and charismatic, he appeared in several TV commercials and a movie starring a Siberian tiger.

On July 4, 1976, the Rebild Society asked him to welcome former California Governor Edmund G. Brown and former Prime Minister Poul Hartling of Denmark to Solvang for the Bicentennial celebration. He was a member of the Vikings, and proud to have sponsored thirteen of his relatives for American citizenship.

He started Solvang Antique Imports in the 1970s and owned Santa Ynez Valley Printing from 1985 through 2005, donating printing to countless causes along the way. He loved his family, was a loyal friend, and treasured the poetry of Robert Burns, who wrote: “If there’s another world, he lives in bliss; 
If there is none, he made the best of this.”

He is survived by his wife, Doris, their five children, and their families. In lieu of flowers, please remember Viking Charities.
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A few thoughts from me..

Every so often life brings you into contact with someone who is truly unforgettable. Renton was one of those people. He could charm anyone, and did so daily. He was a storyteller, an entertainer, a jovial and a truly kind spirit. You could not have a conversation with him that did not involve smiling and laughter – his approach to life was to make those around him happy and light-hearted. His life was not without challenges and hardship, but he approached every day as one more chance to enjoy this amazing world we occupy. He was an amazing grandfather to my cousins and Will and I. Our family was lucky to share so many good years with him, and he will be remembered always.

My best memories of him are centered around the Santa Barbara Harbor. Going down to the boat to spend a weekend afternoon was something truly special – I will always remember those days in the sunshine and salt air. Whether we went out for a cruise along the coastline or just had a picnic on the back deck, it was guaranteed to be a good day. Whenever I go for a walk along the breakwater or to Brophy’s for fish and chips, I always think of those times we all so enjoyed. Grandpa M – thank you.

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