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Remembering Bowsman’s Ken Mitchell


The Swan Valley lost a kind soul when Ken Mitchell passed away on Dec. 20 at the age of 66.
Ken was a multi-faceted man who spent his working years behind the wheel of a semi, cooking in a kitchen, distributing newspapers or working as a farmhand.
Swan River-born and Swan Valley-raised by Ruby and Les Mitchell, Ken moved to Vancouver for a time with his mom and younger sister, Penny, where he finished his schooling and got his chef’s licence. He moved back to the Swan Valley in his early 20s.
Ken married Joyce Hayward, and they had a daughter, Valerie, and a son, Ian, raising them in the Bowsman area.
He enjoyed curling, hunting, fishing, dancing, playing cards and spending time with his family and grandchildren.
“Dad was a gentleman,” said Valerie. “That sums it up pretty good that he was kind, caring and would help anyone if he could.
“He liked to play jokes on everyone. He was outgoing and enjoyed being around people and socializing with people. I haven’t met a person yet that has told me my dad did not talk.”
An image of Ken that some people may be most familiar with is him on a horse or in a wagon.
“What he liked about horseback riding was being outside, enjoying nature, being with other riders, taking children for wagon rides and teaching children about horses,” said Valerie.
Ken was involved with the Birch River Riding Club (BRRC) since 2000, becoming president in 2006 until he passed away.
“He felt it was important to keep the tradition of the annual ride going and to get horse enthusiasts together from near and far,” said Valerie. “Everyone looked forward to seeing different parts of the Valley.”
If the BRRC decides to continue the summer tradition, the next ride would mark 25 years.
“There is a lot of bonding on this trip and I know I’ve made a lot of friends during my time participating in this trail ride,” said Ken, in a past interview with the Star and Times when the BRRC was about to celebrate 20 years of their trail ride tradition.
Ken was also a leader in the community in other ways, as a president of the Bowsman mixed curling club for a number of years and an active member of both the Bowsman mixed curling club and the men’s curling club.
Valerie also noted that Ken would help out at the Bowsman and District Lions Christmas parties, taking children and families out for sleigh rides.
His career on the road as a truck driver came in use late in life, earning his Class 1 licence again in 2014, driving short haul. In 2017, he started driving the Swan Valley Stampeders’ bus, where he enjoyed spending time with the team.
“It was important to him to help out the community,” she said. “He wanted to keep the small town family things going.”
Ken and Joyce didn’t stay together, separating in 2018, but Ken found a partner last summer in Judy Holland and together they went to many coffee houses.
“We miss everything about him,” said Valerie. “He was a good man and an amazing dad, grandpa and friend that will be missed dearly by all.”
Stories from the grandchildren
Summer: When Grandpa would come to visit, he would always try to kiss me, and keep bugging me until I would give him a big hug and a kiss.
Colton: When Grandpa came out to visit us, the first thing he would ask me is if I had a girlfriend yet. I would tell him, ‘No, I don’t have any girlfriends yet, but maybe next week I will’.
Dougie: Every time Grandpa would come over, he would take his change out of his pocket, count it and then asked me how much change he had, and if I got it right, I would get his change. I never got it right.
Kadra: I have so many stories of Grandpa, I couldn’t make a decision on which one. I really enjoyed the time we spent together, including our truck rides to Neepawa, The Pas and to Roblin. He would even phone me and tell me to guess where he was and I would say Vimy Ridge Road or the Overflow depending on which way he was going.”

Jeremy Bergen