John “Swisher” Mitchell was, and will always be, legendary at Colby and in Waterville. A prodigious talent on the basketball court, he led Waterville Senior High School to the New England championship in 1944 and had a storied coaching career at Colby. For 44 years he was a quiet but influential presence on the Colby bench as the assistant coach to the men’s basketball team. He was the perfect complement to his good friend, the terrific head coach Dick Whitmore. During Swisher’s coaching career Colby had its greatest triumphs on the hard court. Just over a year ago, on his 90th birthday, hundreds of his players from five decades returned to Mayflower Hill to celebrate Swisher and to endow the assistant men’s basketball coaching position in his name. It was an extraordinary demonstration of love and admiration for a mentor and friend who made a lasting difference in their lives.
Swisher died today at the age of 91, surrounded by family and friends. In fact, as his health was failing, he always had a caring group by his side. Basketball was an enduring passion for Swisher, but family and friends were what mattered most. His 63-year marriage to Prinella, who died three years ago, was emblematic of the loving and sustaining relationships he nourished throughout his life.
Our thoughts are with the extended Mitchell family, truly one of Waterville’s remarkable gifts, and to the legions of friends whose lives were enriched by John “Swisher” Mitchell. For those of us who had the privilege of knowing him, we will always be comforted by the memory of his charming, mischievous smile and expansive heart. We are all better for having had Swisher in our lives.