Frank and Bessie Mitchell’s family has and still is a part of my life.
As an only child, I gravitated to this large family, having made friends with Mary Jane Mitchell Wagner in junior high. The youngest boy of the nine Mitchell kids I knew was Tommy. The Mitchell aunts, uncles and cousins became mine. Additionally, my cousin, Kathleen Fedorsic, and Tom have been married for 47 years. So, I have it coming at me in many different directions.
Sadly, Tom passed away Oct. 13.
Last year in December, I interviewed Tom and Kathleen for At The Table With Mr and Mrs. S. Claus here in The Phoenix, Reporter & Item. I would like to share the interview with you once again.
It was the Christmas of 1969 when 18-year-old Tom Mitchell was asked to be a stand-in Santa Claus for the Royersford Jaycees. After just two times as Santa, he was hooked for a lifetime and became the real deal. For 49 years until he unofficially retired in 2008 and the officially retired in 2011, he was Santa Claus.
In August 1970, he and Kathleen Fedorsic started to date and were married in 1971. Kathleen became Santa’s driver. It was 1983 that she became Mrs. Santa Claus. When they were young, their children, Tommy and Wendy, were elves, Jingle and Belle. The love and joy of life was passed onto their five grandchildren.
Known by all as “Big Tom,” he made it a mission to grow his belly so no padding was needed. In 1970, when he purchased his first Santa suit, it was size XXL. Several suits later, he wore XXXXL.
This Mitchell family was a very busy family. Tom’s daily job was a car salesman over the years. Kathleen's love of children had her caring for several children. Each child was like her own. Later, she went to work for Aetna, retiring in 2011.
In 2011, Tom lost his right leg below the knee. The Mitchells adapted to this life change. Tom, on his electric scooter with his side-kick, Fannie, a shih tzu, could be found all over the place. There wasn’t a group or event, especially in the Phoenixville area, that he wasn’t involved with. He was the ambassador of Phoenixville. Tom and Kathleen’s involvement was so great that it is impossible to name each and every one.
From 2010 to 2015, Tom and Kathleen organized Costumes for a Cause. They lent body costumes out for charitable events at no charge. This project was handed over the the PAHS Honor Society and is still going strong.
In 2015, he fell and broke his left leg so severely that it needed to be amputated. But Tom always seemed to bounce back. He then used an electric chair. With his prosthesis, he used a walker around the house. Kathleen once became the driver, as Tom went to dialysis three times a week for a little over four hours each time. He needed to slow down somewhat. So with retirement, they moved to Royersford to a new place that suited his needs. Tom was often found on his chair with Fannie riding around Royersford, weather permitting.
Tom knew his way around the kitchen. His love of food was important to him.
Tom's heart was the largest part of him, which he shared and spread to all who were around him.
May he rest in peace.