Iowa native became a fishing ambassador and a friend to all

Jacque ‘Captain Jac’ Mitchell, 1940-2013

Jacque “Captain Jac” Mitchell, 73, the fishing columnist for the Osceola News-Gazette for 25 years, passed away Nov. 23 at his Kissimmee home. This tribute will be his final “Fishin’ Fun” column for the News-Gazette. Mitchell was born in Iowa City, Iowa, in 1940.

After a career in newspaper production in Iowa, Jacque and his wife, Mary Mitchell, moved to Kissimmee in 1983. Jacque Mitchell became the production manager of the News-Gazette for 17 years, and his wife was a copy editor for the newspaper.

He began writing his fishing column for the News-Gazette in 1988, and he delivered one, with his wife’s constant prodding, just about every week. In addition to his usual fishing tips, Jacque often investigated and wrote about environmental concerns that affected fishing on Lake Toho. After retiring from the News-Gazette in 2000, Mitchell, an avid outdoorsman, established his successful Fishin’ Fun Guide Service.

Jacque, with a dry sense of humor, was fast to make friends. Many of his relatives and friends spoke of his kindness, wit, and influence at his memorial service Tuesday at Trinity Lutheran Church, where the Mitchells are members.

Kissimmee Mayor Jim Swan, perhaps speaking for all of us who knew Jacque, said about him, “It’s such a loss. He was such a good man. I never heard him say an unkind word about another human being.”

Jacque ended  many of his columns with his signature tagline: “Get out on the lake and have some fishin’ fun!”

Jacque, we’re sure, would be very pleased if you took that advice often, and with family and friends.

The following tribute to Jacque Mitchell was written by his oldest grandson, Matt Mitchell, a writer, researcher and consultant in Gainesville.

By Matt Mitchell

For the News-Gazette

Those looking for this week’s report on fishing in Central Florida are out of luck.

Jacque’s oldest grandson is an expert on many things. Fishing is not one of them.

Jacque William Mitchell left this world to be with God early in the morning on November 23rd.  “Captain Jac,” 73, left behind his wife Mary after 53 years of marriage, four children (Todd, Ross, Kari, Eric), three daughters-in-law, 14 grandchildren, two grandsons-in-law, one great-granddaughter due in a month, five siblings and he joins a great-granddaughter in Heaven on the new boat I know “Captain Jac” is piloting right now.

Tests were inconclusive about Mitchell’s alleged paternity of a partridge in a pear tree.

Regrettably, I am told that God is rather a stickler for deadlines. Without Mary to prod him along, his “Florida Fishing Report” (for even in Heaven, Florida is considered paradise) is sure to be canceled rather soon.

“Left behind” is the standard term for this sort of thing. It is a sensible term. It is a term that is completely inappropriate to describe the meaning of the life of the fellow who I called “Grandpa” lived. Completely inappropriate and inadequate. The truth is, Jacque was someone who, even in his sudden departure, did not leave his life’s work undone.

God’s perfect plans have a way of being quite messy, at least from our point of view. But Jacque has not “left behind” a batch of irreparably broken lives. He is living and breathing through countless lives that have been created, saved or made better from his being alive. That legacy is not a deceased man’s abandoned relic. It is a vibrant and constantly growing monument, the eternal testimony of the ordinary man who (with a most gifted partner) created that most extraordinary of things: a loving, healthy and productive family.

Often in death, it is all too common for people – people who truly are “left behind” – to be forced to exert special effort to wring a few drops of goodness out of altogether forgettable lives.

I am happy to report – no, to proudly affirm – that no such effort is needed in describing Jacque Mitchell, the man he was, the life he lived, and the size of the loss we are so painfully learning to live with.

This is not only affirmed by me, but in the words and the presence of so many who have known Jacque, be it for decades  – as his siblings, children, grandchildren, in-laws and, of course, Mary did – or for just a few minutes of idle conversation over coffee, like the police officer who attended to him on the morning he passed away.

Bad news is bad news. Jacque Mitchell is dead. Tears are falling. A woman has lost a husband – and does not know how she can go on. Children have lost a father. Sisters and brothers have lost a dear friend. A community has lost someone special. That is all true. That is life in the world we know today. And that truth never changes, no matter how much all of us just wish this would end, that Jacque would just slide back the porch door, walk into the kitchen, smile and ask, “Now what the hell is all this crying about?”

But it doesn’t end at bad news. Not with this man. Not with this life.

For me, the best thing to know from these past few days is that there really was no difference between the Jacque Mitchell who his loved ones knew, and the Jacque Mitchell who the rest of this world got to know.

The man with a high school education who owned a small business, and who could teach rocket scientists and Rhodes Scholars how to live a richer life.

The man who never had a real father figure of his own, yet stepped up and set the highest standard of fatherhood for his three sons – and he gave them the tools they needed to exceed that standard.

The charming, simple yet devilishly romantic and joyful husband who never stopped thanking God for the woman He created, who would call Jacque the reason she woke up in the morning every day through 10 presidents, six decades and countless triumphs and tribulations.

The kind, gentle and sincere grandfather who would call me out of the blue when I was at school, and just getting used to life on my own, just to find out how I was doing. And to let me know he loved me and was always thinking about me. I appreciated those calls then. And now I miss them because I know they aren’t coming anymore.

That was the Jacque Mitchell I knew. It was the Jacque Mitchell the world knew, too.

The story here is not just the bad news. It’s that in recalling the public and private life of one man from a small town, there is nothing new to report. The ordinary man who created the most extraordinary of things is, simply, the story you already know.

Goodbye, Grandpa. I love you. I miss you. I’ll never forget you. And make sure to have the net handy when Jesus gets His first bite on your new boat.

He’s going to be a great repeat customer for your Heavenly Fishin’ Fun Guide Service.