8th district dedicates new tree to late volunteer

The 8th Police District Advisory Council memorialized former chairman Larry Mitchell during National Night Out.

State Rep. Mike Driscoll (left) chatted with Larry Mitchell’s widow Carol (right) and daughter, Merrie Clancy, during National Night Out. PHOTO: WILLIAM KENNY

Thousands of people celebrated the annual National Night Out by attending community gatherings around the Northeast on Aug. 1, but the evening’s activities were particularly special to one local family.

At the 8th Police District, members of the Police District Advisory Council dedicated a newly planted tree to the memory of longtime volunteer Larry Mitchell.

Mitchell, a former PDAC chairman, passed away on May 22 following a lengthy illness. He was 75. He and his wife Carol joined the 8th PDAC in 1993, soon took leadership positions in the group and continued attending its monthly meetings for more than 20 years.

“It makes me feel so good to have that for all the hard work he did up here. It’s a real tribute,” Carol said.

Another longtime PDAC member and owner of Azalea Gardens Landscaping, Bill Ciabattoni, donated the snow fountain weeping cherry and planted it on the lawn outside the entrance to the police station at Academy and Red Lion roads. Ciabattoni has planted other tribute trees on the 8th district grounds recognizing deceased PDAC volunteers and fallen police officers.

He chose the snow fountain weeping cherry because of its low, full branches and delicate flowers.

“When they bloom, they’re all white and very attractive. Even in the winter, they have a graceful look to them,” Ciabattoni said. “It’s a nice thing to have and it’s always there.”

Larry Mitchell’s widow Carol Mitchell (right) and daughter Merrie Clancy examine the newly planted snow fountain weeping cherry tree. PHOTO: WILLIAM KENNY

The donor said Larry recruited him into the PDAC a quarter-century ago. According to Carol, retired police officer Milt Foster was chairman when the couple joined the group. Foster named Larry the fundraising chairman and Carol the corresponding secretary. Then when Milt’s wife Anne died, Carol became the treasurer.

Police District Advisory Councils exist in all 21 of the city’s patrol districts. They are comprised of civilian volunteers and serve as a liaison between the police district and the public. Typically, neighborhood Town Watch groups, civic associations, schools, religious institutions and businesses are represented on the councils.

The Mitchells used the council to provide equipment and services to the district, raising tens of thousands of dollars in donations and grants to fund various projects. In 2000, the PDAC raised $35,000 to buy off-road motorcycles and gear for the district so officers could patrol parks, recreation centers and school yards more effectively. When those motorcycles began to break down from extensive use, the Mitchells led the PDAC’s effort to buy replacement cycles. The Mitchells also helped the PDAC build a storage shed for the cycles.

During the annual Christmas holiday season, Larry would help police officers buy and deliver gifts for disadvantaged children in the area. One Christmas, they donated a television to a group home for boys, along with 76ers t-shirts and tickets to a 76ers game.

Other times, Mitchell led the PDAC’s efforts to make physical improvements to the police station when the city’s own maintenance program was slow to respond. The PDAC helped fix air conditioning and plumbing at the station. It also donated a refrigerator.

Larry succeeded Foster as chairman and held the job for six years. He grew up in Bristol before attending Rhawnhurst Elementary, Wilson Middle and Northeast High schools. He served in the U.S. Army from 1959 to ’61 and was self-employed.

The Mitchells also served together in the Ashton Town Watch. Larry did a lot of the door-to-door fundraising while Carol became adept at applying for grants.

“We were quite a team. It was fun,” Carol said. ••

William Kenny can be reached at 215–354–3031 or wkenny@bsmphilly.com. Follow the Times on Twitter @NETimesOfficial.