Our son, Michael James Mitton, drowned in the frigid water of Field Pond on April 15, 1996; exactly 84 years to the day that over 1400 souls drowned when the Titanic sank. Michael and his friend went fishing in his friend's canoe on Field Pond at Harold Parker State Forest. At about 12:45pm and only about 20 feet from shore, they lost their balance and the canoe capsized. At around this time, I had a premonition that there was something incredibly dangerous about my son's fishing trip, but I believed they were fishing from the shore. I know it sounds unbelievable, but I may have heard Michael's psychic call for help. Unfortunately, I was unable to answer it!
Alas, they took no life preservers. The pond's ice had just melted and the water was numbing cold. Michael was wearing heavy work boots and a heavy wool coat (His friend, wearing light clothing, survived). We doubt that Michael perceived the danger. He was a strong swimmer and probably thought that he could easily swim to shore. I think it may be an easy mistake to not consider the effects of the cold water and heavy clothing. We pray that those that read this do not repeat Michael's mistake. It would be comforting if other lives might be spared.
Although he was under for about 40 minutes, there was still some hope because of the cold water. However, it was not to be; he never responded to the resuscitation efforts. Our terrible job of telling his other relatives and friends began.
Besides his Mom and Dad, Michael is survived by sisters and brothers, Kristine, Albert, Daniel and Laurel and by his grandmothers, aunts, uncles, cousins and many many friends, all of whom loved him very much. Indeed, the line at the wake was about 45 minutes long extending into the parking lot. On his grave, in addition to an abundance of flowers left by his loving family, remembrances from his dear young friends are often found (However, we think the caretaker drinks the Irish beer).
Michael was born on his mother's thirtieth birthday, 10/18/76, which would become a bitter sweet blessing 20 years later. He formed a bond with his mother that transcended the sharing of mere birthdays; a loving child that we miss ever so greatly. He became extremely proud of his Irish heritage and became enthused with the symbol of the claddagh originated by the Joyce's on his mother's side. The claddagh, symbolizing loyalty, love and friendship aptly represented Michael's character and life.
Michael was always concerned and sensitive about others. For instance, at an early age he took it upon himself to be his younger brother's protector. In the supermarket, Michael who was less than 2 years older than Daniel, would keep an eye on his brother and would become quite upset if Dan was not in constant sight. This became a frequent "scene" as Dan thought it a swell game to run and hide in another aisle. Michael was a helpful boy as well. Whether it be helping his father build the shed, shoveling snow for his grandmother, he was ready and willing to help.
Michael was a happy child and was quite the character. If only he could be here to make us laugh again. With this outgoing and cheerful personality, he made countless friends.
Michael loved the outdoors and nature. In the early years, Michael and his grandfather would take frequent hikes through Harold Parker State Forest together enjoying all the wonders of nature. Michael also developed a strong liking for the sport of fishing. Oh if only he had not loved it quite as much!
Michael didn't have an extremely easy life. At age 9, we nearly lost him to pneumonia. Fortunately, the doctors were able to stabilize him by draining the fluid from his pleural cavity and eventually found the right antibiotic. Michael also suffered from chronic bronchial asthma. Although it was recently under control with Intal, the ailment would prevent him from realizing his ambition of becoming a Marine. If they had accepted him, he would not have been on Field Pond that fateful day. However, I guess there are hundreds of "what ifs" that might have changed the course of events.
Michael didn't have an easy time in school either. Although his grades were adequate and he graduated from high school, it was more of a struggle than for many. However, he had finally found his calling. He entered North Shore Community College to study Law Enforcement and made Dean's List that first semester before he died. We were so proud of him but secretly worried that the asthma might also interfere with his aspiration to become a policeman; not knowing that he had but a few short months to live. Despite his personal difficulties (maybe he realized that many others had greater problems), he maintained a good and cheerful attitude always willing to help anyone he could.
Funded by donations, the Town of North Reading has established a scholarship fund in Michael's memory. Each year, the fund provides a $1000.00 scholarship to a graduate needing financial aid and who plans a career in Law Enforcement, as was Michael's ambition. Since Michael was not an honor student, there is no academic requirement to receive the scholarship; merely that the student be accepted to a school that offers such training in Law Enforcement. We are hoping that we can build up the fund such that a larger scholarship or multiple scholarships can be provided each year. If you wish to help, contributions may be sent to:
Michael J. Mitton Memorial Scholarship Fund
North Reading High School
North Reading, MA 01864
Thank you for allowing us to share our grief and fond memories of Michael with you. May you never experience a similar tragedy, and if you have, may our children play and laugh together in heaven.
You can send email to Al at: [email protected]
anniversary date 04-15-96
date of post 05-19-97