Barre Mitchell and Robert Hope not only embodied what is best about Rock Hill, they also, in their own ways, made this community immeasurably better.
A decade after a kidney transplant, Mitchell died Saturday at age 73 of complications from renal disease. Hope, 84, died Sunday in Murrells Inlet, where he had a summer home.
Their loss leaves a void that will be difficult to fill. Hope, first and foremost, was a champion of children. spending most of his life nurturing organizations that provided young people with a safe environment to compete in sports, commune with nature, learn how to get along with others and expand their horizons.
A native of York County and a decorated veteran of the Korean War, Hope spent 27 years as executive director of the Rock Hill YMCA. He also was director of Camp Cherokee, the Y-affiliated camp that was a summertime home away from home for thousands of young people over the years.
As director of the Y, he was far more than simply an executive running an organization. He also was chief cheerleader at sporting events – at both the Y and at local high schools – and a hands-on leader who children recognized as a friend and someone they could turn to.
Hope was involved in numerous community organizations, often playing a leading role, such as serving as director of the Shepherd Center, the nonprofit learning and activity center for seniors. He volunteered for a variety of charitable and community service groups, including among others, the Empty Stocking Fund, the United Way, the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness, the Children’s Attention Home and the Winthrop Eagle Club.
He was named Citizen of the Year in 1999. He also was the recipient of Sertoma’s Service to Mankind Award and was inducted to the York County Sports Hall of Fame in 2007.
Barre Mitchell was a native of North Carolina but spent more than 40 years in Rock Hill, much of the time as company spokesman and director of technology for Bowater, the paper mill in Catawba now known as Resolute Forest Products. He was heavily involved in the community while working for Bowater but even more so after his retirement nearly a decade ago.
Mitchell battled serious health issues during his retirement years but despite the physical toll, his high spirits, zest for life and desire to serve the community never flagged. Although he required dialysis, he continued to make regular trips to Western ski resorts each year.
Mitchell served as president of the Arts Council of York County and in other leadership positions with the council. In fact, he was elected president again Thursday night for a second consecutive year, a demonstration of the esteem and affection of his fellow members.
He was a tireless promoter of the arts in the community, a proponent of installing public art throughout the community and a driving force behind the development of the council’s Community Performance Center on Main Street in Rock Hill. His memorial service was held at the center on Tuesday.
In addition to his work to foster the arts, Mitchell also participated in dozens of civic and community projects, ranging from years of service with the Rock Hill Economic Development Corp. to years as a local board member with the American Red Cross and Piedmont Healthcare System.
He was a board member of the Minority Scholarship Foundation of Rock Hill and Fort Mill, and the recipient of a lifetime achievement award from the York County Regional Chamber of Commerce.
It also should be said that both Mitchell and Hope were enthusiastic, personable and good humored, finding friends everywhere they turned. Their success as leaders had much to do with their amiable and outgoing personalities.
The community owes them a debt of gratitude for all they contributed over decades of service. They will be deeply missed.