Obituary: Mary Mitchell, ‘backbone’ of King’s School

2013-03-22 00:00

MARY Mitchell, the grand dame of the famous King’s School in Nottingham Road, died yesterday aged 92.

She was instrumental in shaping the school with her husband, John.

The school began as a farm school and grew from a boys-only school to a co-educational institution.

John Mitchell took over the school in the 1950s, and together they made it a progressive school renowned for its liberal values.

Mary (nee Buttermer) married John Mitchell in 1952 and they became an inspiring example of a couple who lived and worked selflessly.

Mary would tell people that she merely catered for and looked after the girls. But others, citing her warm and nurturing personality, described her as the backbone of the school.

Together the Mitchells created a special atmosphere: small, intimate and family-orientated. They shaped the school’s liberal values and it was one of the first in Natal to open its doors to all races.

They were supported in their endeavours to remain independent and financially secure by Peter MacKenzie Brown and were friends with Alan Paton. Brown and Paton were leading members of the SA Liberal Party.

Mary Mitchell loved children and had 10 of her own and 19 grandchildren. John died in 2008 aged 80.

Her daughter, Tanya, is the headmistress of the school and her son, Dominic, is on the school’s governing body.

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