Community mourns loss of gifted athlete
He was a gifted athlete, a demanding coach, a committed Christian and a loving husband and father.
That is how many people knew and remember Lloyd (Willie) Mitton who passed away recently following a brief illness.
There are few who will deny this description of a man who depicted many of the things that make for a good and successful life.
Born in Dorchester, he spent his early years there as a close friend of the famous Billy Harris, who went on to carve out an illustrious career in major league baseball. It was there that he got launched into a baseball career than spanned more than 20 years at the senior level.
Willie first got into organized ball in Sackville as a member of the championship juvenile team. By this time he had developed a fine wrinkle of a curve ball to go along with his “high hard one” and later took his talents to Memramcook where he and fellow pitcher Aurele Gaudet led the Rovers to the New Brunswick championship, beating out an import laden team from St. George sponsored by Connors Brothers. He also saw time with the Amherst Blue Jays and was considered one of the top right-handers in the province in the late 1940s and early ’50s.
His death added an exclamation mark to the end of senior baseball in Sackville. He was the last surviving member of a strong squad that included the likes of Les Gallagher, John Lund, Gordon Tower, Grant Lannigan, Aldrich Lannigan, Charlie Mcallister and Bob Hicks. That was an era when Sackville produced some outstanding talent and played in front of huge crowds on what is now the Mountie soccer field on Lansdowne Street.
Willie gave back to the game as he took on a lead role with the local junior team that peaked with a provincial championship before losing out to a powerful Halifax team in a close two-game series.
There were a lot of fine athletes on that team, but Mitton was a no-nonsense coach and demanded discipline as he wanted to show there should never be an “I” in any team while developing boys who would go on to successful careers.
This was proven at one point without any doubt.
“I went to bat with orders to lay down a bunt to move a runner up to second,” says David Fullerton. “Well, the first pitch looked really good so I took a full swing but missed. I took a peak down to third and got the sign to bunt again but the ball came into my wheelhouse and I put good wood on it, ended up at second with the other base runner coming home. When the inning was over I ran to the bench to get my glove and was told in no uncertain terms to sit down.
“The coach said I had ignored his signs on two occasions and that was unacceptable so I sat but that surely taught me a lesson I will always remember.”
During the latter stages of his career Mitton played a little fastball with Dorchester and Main Street Baptist Church but declined an invitation to join the slo-pitch league.
His daughter Kim said he never waned in his interest in baseball and was a die-hard Boston Red Sox fan to the end. She noted that he had become a fan of the Sox long before formation of the Blue Jays and never wavered in his support.
Willie Mitton’s real name was Lloyd but he acquired the name Willie from the late Fode Tower, who he said called everybody the same name only it stuck and few of his mates ever knew the difference.
Throughout his life Willie Mitton was a “straight shooter.” He never varied from his deep held Christian beliefs and this permitted him to set a high standard for the young people he coached and came into contact with. He definitely proved to be a model citizen, one who lived a perfectly clean life so the bar was invariably high.
While he had been unable to contribute to the community in recent years due to poor health his absence will be deeply felt, not just by his family but by the great many friends and acquaintances he acquired over a long and productive life.
So it is with a touch of sadness we send Willie Mitton on his way to what we hope will be an even better life. He certainly earned that privilege over 84 years on earth.
The Mansbridge took place at Mount Allison University on Friday, Sept. 29, in the Moyter-fancy Theatre. Led by the university’s chancellor, Peter Mansbridge, the event was designed to bring the chancellor to campus for a day of discussion, debate, and learning around the central theme of Indigenous Action — addressing how members of the Mount Allison and wider communities can best contribute to processes of enacting change with Indigenous peoples. Above, Natalie Sappier speaks during the summit’s Visiting Speakers’ Circle. The circle also included Donald M. Julien, Imelda Perley, Cynthia Sewell and Peter Mansbridge. Below, Mansbridge listens to comedian and broadcaster Candy Palmater during an interview-style public discussion.