Frances Mitchell will be missed.

The former educator at Mary M. Bethune High School and Halifax County High School is providing her many talents in Heaven, having passed away last month.

During her time on earth, Ms. Mitchell did much more than teach school, and her service to her community extended into her retirement.

I first met Ms. Mitchell shortly after arriving at The Gazette-Virginian in 2000, while she was guarding the front door of the South Boston Recreation Center, taking money for admission to recreation basketball games.

I never had the opportunity to see Ms. Mitchell in action during her teaching days, but I did have the pleasure of her company on many occasions during her retirement.

Always with a ready smile, she provided mentorship and leadership to generations of young people, including yours truly.

Sharp as a tack, she certainly influenced anyone around her, and in a positive way, not taking any “guff” from anyone but also being supportive in any way she could, despite physical limitations that only slowed her down a tad in later life.

Ms. Mitchell’s efforts went beyond the money paid her for her service to the town of South Boston.

In my time back home, I’ve met many like Ms. Mitchell, willing and able to volunteer their time to their neighbors and the community around them.

As I grow older, I realize more and more the value of community and neighbors you can count on when things get rough.

A nice word or positive comment goes a long way in my book, particularly when you turn on a television set or pick up a smart phone and see so much negative and sad news.

I recall several incidents as a youth where a kind and supportive comment meant the world to me, one in particular when I was playing Midget League basketball for the Bulldogs.

Never a starter – mind you, I played with Broderick Hill and Frankie Godbold, both of whom later played for the Comets and later, sadly enough for this Randolph-Macon College graduate, Hampden-Sydney College – I hit the floor with time winding down and my team holding a narrow lead.

I went to the foul line for a one-and-one opportunity with seconds remaining, and I nailed both foul shots to help us win the game.

Hoops neophyte that I was, I asked Coach Tom Crowell the most obvious question in the world -- did those foul shots matter?

I don’t quite recall his exact words, but they were to the effect that “you better believe they did!”

I was on cloud nine for weeks following that game,

As part of the media, news is news, and sometimes it’s bad but needs to be reported.

I get it, nobody wants to hear bad news, but it’s part of the game.

Still, finding people like Ms. Mitchell and others like her is always a plus in my book, and I’ve found plenty like her since I came home.

Keep the good thoughts coming, and maybe the world can be a better place for us all.

Doug Ford reports for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact him at

Doug Ford covers news and sports for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact him at