Mel Mitchell, longtime owner of Mel’s Area Movers and a well known resident and friend in Oak Lawn, died Monday at Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Dallas after a lengthy illness. He was 66.
He operated his moving company, serving everyone from apartment dwellers to office tenants, businesses and churches, in Dallas and New Orleans for more than 20 years with his partner, Philip A. Taylor.
Mel first operated in Dallas, primarily serving the Oak Lawn community, from the mid-1980s until the early 1990s, when he moved his business to New Orleans. While in Louisiana, he specialized in moving art and antiques under the name Versailles Cartage.
Heavy spring floods drove Mel and Phil back to Dallas in 1994, when he restarted Mel’s Area Movers. It operated successfully for the next 12 years until Mel was hospitalized in January with congestive heart failure.
He was known for a broad smile, a glad hand and a good story, sometimes embellished just enough by his favorite blended Scotch and soda. He was mentor to many and friend to everyone, as if he once read Will Rogers’ quip “I never met a man I didn’t like” and took it as his own creed. He also helped several start their own moving businesses.
“He’s always been there helping anyone that needed it,” Taylor recalled. “All they had to do was ask and Mel was there. He’s been there for the community and helping for over 20 years.
That’s a pretty good life.”
Mel’s brother, Jack, who was at his bedside when he died, recalled, “He was a good man with a big heart.”
Phil, Jack and nurses who were attending Mel all recalled, remarkably, how he kept repeating in the hours before his death that he had a trip to make and was “going home.”
Melvin Eugene Mitchell was born January 16, 1940, in Wichita Falls, the son of Jack Reed Mitchell and the former Cless Dean Hoffman. He attended Wichita Falls High School, where he was a cheerleader and won several state roller-skating championships, including figure skating.
He was drafted into the Army in 1962 and served nearly two years, discharged a few months early when his father died. Later, he worked as a civilian employee for the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, including tours in Vietnam helping to conduct audits at military service clubs. He once crossed paths with what became known as the Khaki Mafia and assisted in compiling evidence in the largest financial scandal of the war involving Vietnam service clubs.
Mel is survived by his life partner, Phil Taylor, of Dallas; a brother, Jack A. Mitchell, of Sachse; and two cousins, Vern Huffines, of Wichita Falls, and Jan Davis, of Plano. He also leaves behind his best friends, Lonnie Cliatt, Robert O’Brien and Randy Phillips, all of the Dallas area.
A graveside burial service is scheduled for noon Monday, June 5, at Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery, Lane B, at 2000 Mountain Creek Parkway, Dallas near Grand Prairie. The Rev. J.D. Godwin of The Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration in Dallas will officiate.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, June 2, 2006.