There are 16 stairs that lead from the Morning Star’s ground floor to the second level, which once housed the paper’s editorial department.
For reasons known only to him, longtime managing editor Glenn Mitchell routinely, habitually, ran up the first four steps.
CLOMP, CLOMP, CLOMP, CLOMP.
Every. Single. Time.
Then, as if realizing he wasn’t at a gym, Mitchell would, like the rest of the department, walk the final 12 steps.
Those CLOMPS were a signal that Mitchell had arrived for the day, or if he went downstairs to meet a member of the public, or talk with the publisher or sales department, the CLOMPS would give the editorial department a sign that he was returning to his office, close their social media websites and pretend they were working.
The second level is pretty much vacant now. The editorial department moved downstairs a few years ago. Just a few tables and chairs remain as a makeshift cafeteria.
Those who worked with Mitchell, longtime friends, family, those who knew him through the paper, or through his community work have emptiness in their hearts as big as that vacant second level at the Morning Star.
Mitchell died suddenly at age 60 on Thursday, Dec. 17.
His older brother Kevin, who worked alongside Glenn for 27 years at the Morning Star, made the announcement of the passing of his “sweet and beautiful brother” on his Facebook page Friday.
“He loved everybody but himself and we who loved him will never be the same,” wrote Kevin. “May God be looking over you great brother of mine.”
The post, as of Sunday morning, had garnered 720 comments, more than Babe Ruth’s 714 home runs; a testament to how loved Mitchell was in the community, and how much he, his family and extended family mean to so many people.
“My heart goes out to the entire Mitchell clan,” said Brad Moore, former Morning Star photographer, now a Calgary police officer. “I have many fond memories of working with and knowing Glenn and I am saddened by the news.”
“He was truly one of the classiest individuals I knew,” said Vernon School District board trustee Tom Williamson.
Mitchell arrived in Vernon with his family from New Westminster in 1963 when his father, Lloyd, took a job with the school district as supervisor of special services. Foreshadowing a career in print, perhaps, Mitchell’s first newspaper job was delivering the Vancouver Sun in Vernon on his bike at 6:30 a.m.
He attended Silver Star Elementary, Fulton Junior Secondary and graduated from Vernon Senior Secondary School in 1978. Mitchell earned an English degree at Simon Fraser University before returning to school to study journalism at Cariboo College in Kamloops.
Mitchell began his journalism career as a reporter for the Hope Standard. He got wind that a community newspaper would be starting in Vernon and was hired as one of the original staff members of the Morning Star which began in June 1988, starting as sports editor. He took an exodus from his hometown to work as editor at the Salmon Arm Observer before returning to the Star as managing editor, a post he held until his retirement in 2018.
“Glenn’s passing is a great loss for the entire North Okanagan,” said Morning Star co-founder Wayne Porter. “From Day 1, Glenn was a driving force in the growth of the Morning Star. His hyper-local content policy was a major contributing factor in the success of the newspaper. He will be missed.”
Mitchell was a creature of habit.
Every day he’d bring his lunch in his blue lunch bag which always contained two slider bun-size bunwiches tightly wrapped in plastic, a granola bar and a juice box. He’d go for a walk on his lunch hour every day. His desk contained his must-have large-size calendar book filled with printed emails and the department vacation calendar. He had a tin FULL of paper clips. That tin was never empty.
One thing the editorial department joked about at Mitchell’s expense was his handwriting. It was not good. It made a doctor’s prescription look like calligraphy.
Me: “Glenn, does this headline say “Rally disco goes silent?”
Glenn: “Lemme see. No. It says “Regional district donates cash.”
Me: “Ohhhhhh.” (Eyes rolling upon return to desk).
Mitchell was a big fan of email. How else to explain the 5,300-plus emails on his computer? He never cleared them.
Mitchell would assign stories via email, usually ending it with his popular catchphrase, ‘please and thanks.’ Or ‘P and T.’
Friday mornings in his office were reserved for writing his beloved column, Mitchell’s Musings. It was Glenn’s look at life, politics, sports, family, anything. He wrote with humour and sincerity. A condition of his retirement was that Mitchell be allowed to continue writing his column. The Morning Star eagerly agreed.
“His column was the first thing I read when I got the paper,” wrote Lynda Jones on the Star’s Facebook page. “So sad.”
Mitchell was an outstanding newspaperman. He taught, coached, and guided so many young journalists as a mentor including Vernon native Tyler Olsen, now working for Black Press in the Fraser Valley. Mitchell made a lasting impression.
“I worked there for two years and my main memory of him – aside from his smile – is actually a memory of how I would feel when he would go off on holidays,” said Olsen, who went on to become a Webster Award winner for investigative journalism. “He’d go off for a couple of weeks and I’d essentially count the days for his return not because the newsroom turned into mayhem in his absence, but just because his presence made coming to work more enjoyable, and his experience made my work and the work of everyone else a lot better.”
A sports fan, Mitchell played baseball and football as a teenager, then volunteered with minor hockey and high school football for his two sons. He was an all-star forward in his too-small cycling helmet for the Morning Starz Vernon Winter Carnival broomball squad. He was also a music lover with a great record collection, counting Neil Young and Supertramp among his favourites.
Mitchell, known for giving the world’s best hugs, is survived by his wife, Rhoda, sons Justin and Lucas, parents Lloyd and Marion, brothers Kevin, Murray and Craig along with extended family and many friends.
Do us a favour in Glenn Mitchell’s memory: talk about mental health to loved ones… please and thanks.