With heavy hearts the family of Martha Sheppard (Brown) Mitchell report that Martha passed away on 9 September 2021 at 4:30 AM in Williamsburg, Virginia after a very brief but brave bout with cancer. Martha trusted Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior. We are calmed with God’s peace and assurance that our dear one is no longer suffering pain, but is now with the Lord and His angels about the throne, joyfully united with family and friends who passed before her.
Martha, a native of Daytona Beach Florida, born 14 January 1942, was married 58 years to Dean S. Mitchell, and together they had three children. The family moved from Florida to Virginia in the mid 1970s where Dean retired in the Coast Guard.
Martha’s Christian faith and inner strength helped our family through the difficult times; her love and laughter, zest for life, and elegance added to our celebrations. She was not only a dearly devoted wife, nurturing and loving mother and sweet grandmother, a dear younger sister to Laura (Brown) Smallwood of Florida and a loving aunt, but also our friend and confidant. Martha was deeply touched that her beloved sister Laura, a retired nurse, was able to drop all to travel and stay with her and Dean since the cancer was discovered in late July. Her family will never forget.
Martha, the youngest of two, was the daughter of the late landscape artist and poet Everett Sheppard Brown, and nurse Lucile Janette (Heist) Brown, RN who owned nursing homes while Martha and Laura were growing up. Her daughter Deborah, the family historian, discovered some years ago after going through the old family photo collection that Martha and Laura are the third-cousin, three times removed of the late President Abraham Lincoln on their father’s side; they are also Mayflower descendants of Francis Cooke on their mother’s side. Martha’s great-uncle, John Rutherford Sheppard (1873-1945) of Rising Sun, Cecil County, Maryland established the first Dental Supply unit in America and is listed in The Who’s Who Book of Records.
Martha attended Sea Breeze High School in Daytona Beach until the middle of the 11th grade, and then was transferred to Mainland High School in Daytona where she graduated in 1960. She attended Daytona Beach Junior College. Martha knew Dean since the 8th grade, but began dating him after high school, and married him on 1 June 1963 before moving to Stacy, Carteret, NC where Dean was transferred. Dean had been stationed in Swansboro, North Carolina and actually returned to Florida to take her as his bride! He always told her, “I went all the way back to Florida to get you!” As a mother, Martha chose to remain at home and was very involved in her children’s lives and activities. When they entered high school, she returned to college and graduated with honors to become a medical transcriptionist at the old Hampton General Hospital for 3-1/2 years, and she later accepted a civil service job as a medical transcriptionist at the Fort Eustis Army Base Hospital where she made new friends and worked for 7 years. After Dean retired from the U. S. Coast Guard, Martha and Dean purchased a Molly Maid Franchise in November 1988 on the Peninsula and grew it from its inception to become one of the largest in the nation. Martha enjoyed the close, long-term bonds the couple formed with their many employees and other business owners and she cared about each one.
Dean and Martha had the pleasure of traveling together to Alaska, the Caribbean, West Indies, European and Scandinavian countries, Australia, New Zealand, the Artic and Antarctic, and twice to Africa together (her favorite trips were the two they took to Africa, where she enjoyed seeing the animals and meeting the people). Martha enjoyed her poodles, sewing, sewing and collecting dolls, cross-stitching framed pictures, verses, and pillows, reading biographies, working jigsaw puzzles, growing houseplants, and baking. She had many strong talents and found ways to put each of them to good use to touch the lives of others.
Though well-acquainted with personal suffering, Martha made caring about the needs of others her focus to the end. Her life was a good example of how to live and die in grace.
Martha’s radiant smile and inner glow always charmed a room. She had an appreciation for beauty and spread it all around. Her kind-hearted nature touched most anyone she met, even those who didn’t know her personally.
Martha and husband Dean have been longtime members of Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church in James City County. Martha will be sorely missed now by her family and by her fellow Grace Covenant Church members. She will also be remembered well by her fellow members at the Faith In Action organization, by the Williamsburg Woman’s Club she was dedicated to for years, and by the elderly she loved whom she drove to appointments and shops.
We love you, Martha. We are very thankful for your life and all that you meant to your family. It is so painful to be separated from you now, but the pains and sorrows of this life are a thin veil – and nothing in comparison to the heavenly joys that await us when we shall see God in all of his glory and meet again face to face.
Martha’s daughter Deborah began raising butterflies this year and will release one at her mother’s memorial service as Martha thought fitting. ‘Mother, you are now fully free from the painful constraints of this life. Rest in peace, my beautiful, sweet Mother. You will always be dear in our hearts and we will love you forever.
– Deborah K. (Mitchell) Strader, Martha’s oldest daughter
*Please note: In lieu of flowers, the family asks that family and friends consider donating to Hospice House and Support Care of Williamsburg at 4445 Powhatan Parkway, Williamsburg, VA 23188. The burial will be at the Williamsburg Memorial Park. A memorial service at Grace Covenant Church on Jamestown Road is being planned – the date and time to be announced on the Bucktrout Funeral Home online website: https://www.bucktroutfuneralhome.net, or people may phone Bucktrout Funeral Home for information at: 757-229-3922
Date: Friday, October 1, 2021
Time: 11:00 am
Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church
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