The AANP extends is deepest condolences to the family of William A. Mitchell, Jr., ND.
To have your memories and thoughts posted on this page, please email InMemoriam@naturopathic.org.
Click here to read the Bastyr press release
Seeing and connecting will Bill was always one of the highlights of any naturopathic conference for me. It was so peaceful to be around him and see in him the best of naturopathic medicine, the courage to speak his truth and the compassion to care that others understood the message. I always looked to Bill as a role model for myself as a naturopathic doctor. He provided me counsel and support when I would call him with my most difficult questions. Bill loved Gaia and Gaia loved him. I will miss him deeply.
Dr. Steve Nenninger
It has been said that funerals and memorials are not for the dead, they’re for the living, for those of us left behind, a moment to pause, to reflect on what is gone, and that which lies ahead.
We now all reflect on a Bill Mitchell who was unique to each of us, depending on when and where we met him and, of course, who we are.
The Bill I know had an abundance of the three H’s: humor, honesty, and honor. When I think back on our years together I don’t remember Bill ever telling “a joke”, but I can’t think of him without remembering his sly smile or infectious laugh. I never knew him to say or imply anything dishonest or deceitful – he was who he was and he liked others the same. And his honor was boundless – for his family, naturopathy, and nature, to name only the topics we spoke of the most.
Bill Mitchell, to me, falls into that category of “old-time naturopathic physician.” Since I’ve heard this title applied to me, I like to think that it has nothing to do with age, but rather a way of thinking. Bill honored naturopathic tradition in a way that only someone with a solid grounding in science can do. He believed its historic tradition, but also its scientific validation. And he was joyous to see it work – to see it help people be healthier.
“Old-time naturopathy” does not mean abandoning science, but rather the opposite, of science in its deepest, most wholistic application; beyond cause and effect to interconnectedness.
As an “old-time naturopath” Bill was a guy who never stopped asking “Why?” Some people have this question beaten out of them by unimaginative parents, teachers, medical schools, but Bill had the “Why?” gene imbedded into his DNA makeup and continued to nourish it.
The problem with that “Why?” gene is that there are a great many puzzles in the world. Even if you only confine yourself to naturopathy, you can spend a lot of time reading chemistry books, history, listening to lectures, experimenting, even tasting and smelling tinctures. It can also put you at odds with others; the charlatans, the opportunists, the intellectually lazy.
As some of you know, Bill was concerned about where some in naturopathy are drifting. It worried, and perplexed him, that many naturopaths have jumped into the practice of writing prescriptions for drugs. He didn’t question this because he was contrary, or stubbornly “old-time”, but rather because he was afraid that the ease of writing a prescription would lead to leaving out of the “Why?” question. A doctor who prescribes an antibiotic, a sleeping pill, or a hormone doesn’t need to ask “Why isn’t this patient’s immune system or brain or gland making its own antibodies, neurotransmitters, or hormone?” To him these questions were fundamental to how he practiced medicine and he wanted young naturopaths to share the thrill of answering “Why?”
Like most of our traits, for better or worse, this “Why?” gene brought Bill the joy of discovery, but it could also tortured him. When you have the trait, you can’t protect yourself from the same question. Self exploration is part of living life to its fullest. Bill wanted that, wanted a full life. He pushed himself into scary places. And he often went to those places alone. Fortunately for us, he was willing to share his experiences with us.
Asking “Why?” questions of himself and others gave Bill a grounding that inspired him to move ahead, to explore, to keep trying. And when you combine the “Why? Gene with the three H’s – the humor, honesty and honor – you have a quietly inspiring, likable guy. Someone I will love till the end of my days.
Tom Ballard, RN, ND
It was his presence, knowing what he did and was that inspired me whether he was in my vicinity or not.
The yoga classes, the lectures, writing, the connection to the spirit of plants and Naturopathic Medicine- these things and more I will carry with me from our teacher.
Days before he passed I was thinking how wonderful it would be for him to present for a group of colleagues- However, the torch of his light and inspiration in Naturopathy must be carried on in each of our hearts and minds. I am forever grateful for the opportunity to learn from him and hope that his teachings will thrive in each of us.
Artemis Morris, ND, MS, L.Ac
Dr. Mitchell was an inspiration to me in naturopathy. I remember one time I sent him a tincture of Maclura pomifera, the Osage Orange, and he called me up after he had tasted it and told me, "Les, this plant is incredibly powerful and has the potential to cure the world of cancer and AIDS." He made us feel good about being naturopaths. I remember he called us all Angels at one lecture, charging us to be messengers (the meaning of angel) of this good medicine that we practice. I have commissioned many other doctors to be angels also since Dr. Mitchell commissioned me. He had a big vision for naturopathy, and would always fire me up at the AANP conferences each year with various big ideas of spreading our greatest of medical systems. I will continue to try to keep his vision alive.
Les Moore, ND, MSOM, LAc.
Dr. Bill Mitchell was like a grandfather to many of the students who attended his phenomenal talks at the Naturopathic Gathering over the past several years. My favorite memory of Dr. Mitchell is of one of the lunchtime forums at The Gathering 2006 in Portland. There were probably 20 students sitting around a big table, asking questions and discussing the future of naturopathic medicine with Dr. Mitchell. We had so many worries about how to maintain the philosophy of naturopathic medicine and stay true to our roots amidst the pressures of the conventional medical paradigm. His answers were so honest, so candid, and so inspiring as he spoke of the human spirit and our true purpose as doctors. He said that we are here to help people move from a place of being broken to a place of being whole, and when we are present and in line with that purpose, we cannot stray from the philosophy. We'll live it. And our patients will see that and learn to live it too. Dr. Mitchell was such an inspiration, and I hope to carry that with me into the future. We will remember him always, as a dear friend, an amazing physician, and a leader in our profession.
Tara Peyman, Naturopathic Medical Student, Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine
Dr. Mitchell lit up a room with his excitement about the energy of plants. I remember once seeing him speak at the AANP conference in Utah, and he is passing out tinctures to a room of hundreds of people, excited about which ones had what constituents, and what that means for the communication and creative energy of the universe. He would sit in the cafeteria at Bastyr after a class, eating a chocolate brownie, knowing a student might stop by to chat. He would always take the time to talk with others. A class with Dr. Mitchell could mean the most inspiring lecture from afar, or the most intimate gathering of students sitting on the floor drinking berry smoothies. He really was the true nature doctor. His light has touched many people, his energy has changed all of our beings for the better.
"The Vis is always there, internal, inherent...it may need building blocks to heal itself...naturopathy uses logic as a tool to look at the vital force...we also use intuitive tools...a revelation between you and the patient that occurs merely by the relationship alone...Recognize the answer to what the patient needs is always there, and this recognition will provide access to the revelation"
Bill compared the meeting of two spiritual beings ( in this case doctor and patient as above) to the Bohr model: that one electron cloud is meeting up with another, which releases a quanta of energy. This quanta is the controlled release of spiritual learning we have when we interact with another, it is an "Aha!!!" moment...and that if our pure light spirits met on this planet, like two nuclei, the joining would cause an explosion due to the sheer power inherent in us all. I think he was telling us to honor every interaction, and the time that it takes to have our "Aha" moments with each patient, and furthermore, each person, animal, plant, insect, and beyond.
Thank you Dr. Mitchell for altering my consciousness with your well chosen words, your excitement about life, your awareness, and your dedication to the Vis Medicatrix Naturae.
Remember everyone: "You are the cells of the immune system of Gaia" -Dr. Bill Mitchell
Kimberly Kalfas, ND, Columbus, Ohio Class of 2005
It was the summer of 1982 when the Bastyr community welcomed the students of PCNM into their school. Dr. Bill Mitchell worked quietly behind the scenes to insure our transition was smooth and our studies were complete before the new school year began. Dr. Mitchell instructed me for the next two years in botanical medicine, he was a great teacher who was inspiring and made the classroom come alive. In the clinic Dr. Mitchell always greeted me with a smile and was a patient mentor. Dr. Mitchell's legacy will always live on through me and in the lives of my patients as I prescribe botanical medicine as part of their treatment plans.
I am so grateful that I saw Dr. Mitchell at the 2005 Convention. It had been 21 years yet he knew me immediately. He was the type of person who greeted you as if time had stood still, with warmth and friendship. He truly walked his talk.
My heart goes out to his family and community.
Dr. Bonnie Marsh, Bastyr graduate 1984
Saying he will be missed can not explain the breadth of loss of the living Dr. Bill Mitchell and his endless bounty of gifts. My heart grieves deeply.
What an inspiring human being and true student of life! What a compassionate, wise and giving soul. He gave to one at time and to all of us all the time in many, many, many ways. His heart was so well developed and finely tuned that it was an exquisite instrument susceptible to break.
The wonderful things he has said and done are endless. I loved listening to him talk and wondering each time where the adventure would go.
One of my favorites was hearing him say, as always and ever so humbly, “I don’t think that drugs are a bad thing…I have just found that I have not needed to use them…yet”.
For me these words captured the essence of naturopathic medicine that he lived, breathed, taught and practiced. He has and always will inspire me in my miniscule way to try to do this work in the same spirit he taught us.
With much fondness, love and deep gratitude,
Catherine Orsi, ND, LMP, Bastyr 2003
I met Bill Mitchell in 1977 when he came to Portland and the Postal building to teach us herbal medicine. In 1977, I had a school girl crush on him that I finally told him about last year, and we laughed a belly laugh over that one. The other thing we laughed about was our class trip to Bagby hot springs: Of course, we had an herb walk along the way.
Those days Bill was a young dad and he was one of the first dads I saw carry his child on his back in a baby back pack. He loved his kids so much and we were inspired to be great naturopathic doctors and as well as inspired parents. He never failed to email me out of the blue just to check in on me and tell me of some new discovery and of his love of life and of plants. He was then and is even more so now, one of my healing angels that help me with patients. You are with me Bill in the pulse of life!
Catherine Downey, ND
I wrote the attached poem, Healer for the Ages, in memory of Bill Mitchell, our friend, colleague, teacher, and mentor. I wanted to be able to capture the essence of this great man and what he meant to all of us, in a poem.
Healer for the Ages
How do we begin to reconcile the loss of such a great man
Someone who always stood at the cutting edge of his medicine,
Passionate in his life and teachings about the healing power of nature
Touching countless lives with his enthusiasm, gentleness, and caring ways.
He succeeded in inspiring a whole new generation of students and doctors
Serving as both teacher and mentor he engaged our minds and opened our hearts,
Challenging us to integrate the science of medicine and wisdom of traditional healing
His legacy as a healer for the ages forever etched across the earth and sky.
He was always exploring and searching for answers to questions
Regarding the deeper and true meaning of the mysteries of life,
A fire lit within his soul that drove his quest for the fruits of knowledge
Which he then readily shared with anyone who was open to listen.
Being a student of life, the earth served as his sacred classroom
Where he believed in the interconnectedness of every living thing,
And he treated life with reverence just as he treated each of his patients
With the endearing qualities of compassion, humility, and charity.
Stories about his life and accomplishments could fill untold volumes
Yet at the essence of the man lies the simplicity of his message to us,
Embrace life and the incredible opportunity to learn from Mother Nature
And believe in yourself, being ever thankful for life’s wonderful gift of love.
Erik Steven Jones, ND
january 27, 2007
written in memory of our dear friend, teacher, and mentor, bill mitchell
Bill always had one foot planted firmly in the science and the other in
the spirit of naturopathic medicine. The words to describe him are
many: devoted, compassionate, committed, honest, wise, enthusiastic, intelligent, courageous, and in love with life and his exploration of its many facets, especially as they related to healing. Bill was my colleague, and my friend. I am grateful to have known him in this life,
and to have shared this path of medicine with him. We are, all of us,
one in spirit. Bill lived that reality, and shared his experience as teacher, friend, physician and spiritual being.
His time with us was a gift, for us and for him. A part of him lives in each of us to inspire us on our own journey. Thank you Bill for all that you shared, especially the light. We miss you terribly. The struggles of this life you have left behind, be at peace with the Creator.
Guru Sandesh Khalsa, ND
Dr. Mitchell befriended me when I was a student at SCNM. He was always kind, insightful, and so full of wisdom. He was one of our most profound teachers and his impact will be felt for many generations.
Dallas Thomason, ND
Bill was a force of nature. A passionate healer, teacher, and lover of life. There was something warm, comforting, and very honest about being in Bill's presence. So much wisdom tempered with great humility.
And a willingness to share his experience wholeheartedly.
One of my first memories of Bill was a backpacking trip a number of us took, probably into the Cascades. That must have been around 1980. I remember how fun it was and how much I learned about the medicinal plants as we hiked. Even though we were pretty much the same age, he always felt older… a knowing sage.
When I asked Bill what is was like to have gone through the trauma of the auto accident and aftermath, I will always remember his honesty and candor. I learned a lot from that conversation. How he reframed a tragedy into an opportunity for deep spiritual self-searching and dedication to community service.
Dr. Bastyr's death was the end of one era of naturopathic medicine and this feels like the end of another. As I wrote in a condolence card to Bill's family, I know of another similar child and father death.
During one of our trips to India, we were able to attend an open air concert with Zakir Hussein, a famous tabla player. His mentor was his father, Alla Rakha. A couple of weeks before the concert his sister died followed, days later, by his father, who was said to have succumbed of heartbreak. The concert, the first since the period of family mourning ended, was heartfelt for all present.
We just never know. Today, tomorrow, or a blip in the future, we will all go, just as Bill did. A powerful reminder to live fully and be present.
Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman, ND Bastyr 1983
I think I heard David Crow L.Ac. once say that maybe the monks and Buddhist sages who came down with such common diseases and died of them when they could have easily been taken care of by modern medical practices, could be doing it for the community. Maybe they died because the community needed to heal. Maybe he took a long look and said this is what I need to do to pull us all together. (For goodness sake he definitely didn’t die of any pathophysiological heart disease with all those bioflavonoids in his body!!) Maybe his timing is perfect for us to be in touch with our hearts right now. In touch with feelings and intuitions is what makes us strong as humans and doctors particularly. I want to figure it out just as much as Dr. Bill and use the reductionist method to get the whole. But it may take looking at the whole to get to the whole. Take it all in. He and I once talked about having research done on this whole way. I asked him ‘Could we look at the whole and do research this way? Is there a way in the future for quantum computers to do this?’ He nodded gently and said that could be the in the future and the he had no idea. Just in that he gave me hope. I have figured this out that I guess we are the quantum computers of the future. For me to make a profound difference for the world every second with every interaction is with my intuition and that is what he taught me. He said there is consciousness in Gaia and consciousness everywhere.
I think what makes me cry for him is the way he walked lightly on this earth and respected it profoundly. Such a respect for all, like no other human I have known personally.
Also, his body expressions meant a lot to me. I loved when he talked about his interaction with herbs after his car wreck. He laid in bed everyday and reached over his shoulder on the head board and took a little bit of an herb and just sat with it (there were hundreds that he tested just this intuitive way). Just his body language in the way that he taught us at that one AANP conference was endearing. He sat with the herb and the transcripts of the conference would miss this; his facial expression and his slumped over shoulder shrug and pontificated furrowed brow and his hand to chin.(he commonly did this in other interactions too, so not something only at conferences) He learned a lot from those herbs and I am glad he got the book written. I learned a lot about being with something and someone and wait until it got fully express from his teachings.
I miss you Dr. Bill
A HO ME TOK WE A SAN
Inspired by you,
Christopher J. Kozura N.D., L.M.P.
Listening to Bill speak on ‘Aspects of the Vital Force’ at the ‘97 convention in Arizona demonstrated to me the incredible depth of the medicine and solidified my decision to enter naturopathic school. Thank you, Bill, for your inspiration and for the challenge to understand and experience life without separation.
Jorge Kaufmann, ND, LAc
We are all shocked and saddened by the untimely death of Bill Mitchell. I first met Bill in 1979 when applying to Bastyr; my interview was at his office in Seattle. He taught many of my classes and was one of my supervising doctors at the clinic at 45th and University. Since then, I have looked forward to his frequent talks at the AANP convention, always bringing away a few clinical pearls I could use in my practice, often on the first day back.
To my eyes, Bill blended the best of "scientific" naturopathic medicine with the Vis Medicatrix naturae. I've never met someone who was as comfortable talking about convoluted biochemical pathways as well as Gaia and the interactions of people with plants and the earth. He showed that these are not mutually exclusive views but interconnected and reinforcing. His talks of our plant allies was as meaningful as his descriptions of indications for use. To this day I still use many of the herbal formulas I learned from Bill in his Botanical Medicine classes.
Bill was wholistic to his core, and I'm sure his legacy will live on in others as one of the fathers of modern naturopathic medicine.
Carl Hangee-Bauer, ND, LAc
Dr. Bill Mitchell was an inspiration both as a physician and as a human being. He embodied the qualities that inspired my path. I met Dr. Mitchell when just starting at Bastyr University. The year I was accepted to the college my husband was diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer. We sought out Dr. Mitchell as a referral from my best girlfriend. He had helped her years before and she thought so highly of him. I had heard his name and heard the stories of his starting the college but had never met him till Chuck and I walked into his humble office. We had my then 4year old daughter with us. She was so wild and wanting of his attention. He was so patient with her and even let her touch and interact with his totem objects in the room. My husband Chuck had been a Boeing engineer for 43 years and was very much from the scientific model. Dr. Mitchell was uniquely the right naturopathic physician for Chuck. He was able to bridge the scientific with the emotional/spiritual needs that were present in that room.... for all of us. It is still palpable to me the kindness, the empathy, the hope and the guidance with the medicine that gave Chuck the health and vitality to outlive his prognosis 150%, travel to Europe, be his baby girl's caregiver and to enjoy at least the last 18 of the 24 months that he lived. I went to visit Dr. Mitchell after Chuck passed and was so deeply in grief but needed to communicate how much I appreciated his care for my husband. He took me back to a sitting room and He sat in an old rocker gently going back and forth as my tears flowed. I'll never forget the peace and genuine care he provided and it served to give me strength throughout the next few years as I finished my studies at Bastyr. Our relationship grew from doctor to teacher to colleague. We had several lunches together and he was always eager to hear what I was learning both in medicine and in my personal growth. One day in the chapel at Bastyr, where I frequently would take time to pray and mediate with the statue of Mary.... there comes Dr Mitchell. He pulled a chair next to me and we shared in that teminose of Spiritual light that was so present in that place. I'll never forget his lecture one afternoon in botanical medicine where he was lecturing on sage. He was telling us of the physical medicinal properties and also of it's use in ceremony by the native American Indians. As he was demonstrating by saging the room, an incredible boom of thunder pounded from the skies! Several times this happened and I will always feel the gods were applauding his strength of spirit, his commitment to teach that which has been disregarded and his open heart that touched each and every one of us. He became the metaphysician in the last few years and our paths as always were in sync. He has moved to the realm of Spirit where he will now become a part of my medicine and my spiritual grandfather. His love is so close to my heart and I am truly so grateful for his presence in my live and in the lives of those I loved. I am honored to have known Bill and my prayers are with his family, for their healing even in the grief .... one of Bill's gifts to me.
In my heart, Dr. Lynn Mike
I had an unusual relationship with Bill as a non-practitioner who was charged, in 1983, with creating a funding base for the then John Bastyr College of Naturopathic Medicine. The school was unheard of. The medicine was unheard of. Candidacy status had just kicked in but foundations were still largely beyond reach. We had few alums. How to find resources?
We decided to ask NDs in the community to consider contacting their patients. Many found this abhorrent. Bill didn’t. His belief was simple. Part of health and one’s healing process meant reaching out, connecting to, and giving to community. Bill figured that donating to Bastyr might be a way some of his patients might want to give thanks and connect.
He – working with Roberta – began giving return envelopes and a small note, as I recall, telling patients that if they wished, any amount would be nice. No sell. He’d just mention it to them. It sticks in my mind that 115 of his patients donated that year, from $1 to $250. Few NDs were comfortable with the campaign. The most donations from any other ND’s contacts was 10-12. Bastyr developed the beginning of a community of support for the first time. Bill’s doing.
John Weeks, ND (Hon ’91, Bastyr)
VP for external affairs, Bastyr, ‘83-‘89; former exec, AANP ’89-‘93
I will always remember Dr. Bill as a caring and sensitive teacher, who along with his love for knowledge had an equal love for teaching this knowledge, without bias. I remember his lectures full of the "mechanisms of action" of the various plant constituents and interesting anecdotes on their uses. We will sorely miss Dr. Mitchell, along with Dr. Bastyr, as one of the true propagators of naturopathic medicine. The heart and appreciation he had for nature and people will always be remembered. Thank you Dr. Bill for a life well spent in the service of your fellow man.
Dr. Mary Battilocchi, N.D., 1993 grad Bastyr U.
I didn't know Bill very well, but I thought he was just the kindest man when he contacted me out of the blue "just to make contact with my east coast colleagues." He didn't want anything from me--he just wanted to chat. I thought, "how extraordinary!" I only wish I had had the chance to know him better.
Dr. Crystal Abernathy, ND
In honor of our dear grandfather and friend, I will be dedicating a music show to the energies that Bill continues to bring our profession and planet. The show will air on www.kafmradio.org on Tues, Feb 27 from 9am-12pm, Mountain Standard time. I immediately think of the 11th-century European mystic, prioress, herbalist, devotional poet, hymnal composer and wisest of women Hildegard von Bingen of whom Bill used to speak of at AANP conventions. I will be airing several of her compositions. If you know of Bill's musical interests, or if you have a request for a song or artist that you would like to hear, please email me at email@example.com. I miss Bill and send all my blessings and love to his family and friends.
Yours in spirit,
Dr. Christopher Lepisto
i was asked to introduce bill to ccnm students in toronto a few years ago since we shared 4 years together as ncnm classmates...i shared a story about a weekend hike in the cascade mountains with bill & dirk powell. the experience was indelibly imprinted in "the fleshy tablets" as dr. "b"
(bastyr) would say...it was my first meeting with aconite (monkshood)...as we walked into an alpine meadow on a sunny afternoon, suddenly, out of the blue (literally) a cold easterly wind swept thru' , accompanied by ominous dark, fast-moving clouds. turning my head to the right, there stood the most remarkably dark blue flowers, couched in their hoods, nodding solemnly & a palpable shiver shot up my spine...this was a perfectly aconite encounter...no visible ghosties, ghoulies, long-leggedy beasties or all things that go 'bump' in the night,just the powerful presence of a healing plant emissary...
scene 2: as we approached an icy slope, bill stopped me & recommended that we wrap the leather strap of our ice axes securely around our wrists. he then proceeded to give me a quick lesson in stopping a potentially lethal tumble down the mountainside, if a slip/fall was in my cards...muttering to my young & immortal self, 'whatever', i then took one step onto the slope & my second foot forward turned into a rapid slide downwards...no panic, just the replication of bill's lesson seconds earlier...dangling precariously by a pic-hold onto the 'slippery slope', i glanced over my shoulder to watch my hat tumble over some jagged rocks towards the alpine lake below..our meeting with the monkshood moments earlier helped to prevent a necessary change of gauchies....."good one, that's exactly what you should do" said bill, followed by that inimitably gleeful chuckle. that wry piscean smile loomed overhead, coaxing me back up onto the onward trail..bill was inescapably, first & foremost a teacher. even as a classmate he filled in & taught us embryology while leading others through guitar lessons as a means of supplementing income to help support his family.
"so listen up folks," was my recommendation to the students,"this man's advice is solid & may some day prove life-saving"...after sitting thru' his presentation which was a refreshing weave of interconnected strands of science & the truly traditional, i witnessed wild bill @ his finest. he truly sparkled in this element,& it became clear to me that he was genuinely @ home teaching in whatever served as a suitable classroom wherever/whenever the opportunity presented itself...i congratulated him afterwards & tipped my hat (found another) to his expertise but moreso in recognition & admiration of a brother who really espoused the vismed naturae in a way which deserves our kudos & enduring gratitude...
we've lost one of our finest but rest assured that after he sees his son safely through the misty,somewhere the good dr. mitchell for sure is finding a captive audience who are about to have their eyes re-opened to new possibilities...his venue is that place where the heart resides...
shalom, old friend
Bill was a true healer in every sense of the word. He radiated his essence, and his essence was seeped in love and respect for all of life. He loved his patients, his plants, his colleagues, his medicine, his friends, his family. Along with that love and those wonderful hugs, Bill exemplified a blend of humility and powerful emanation of spirit. I imagine that Bill's journey Home was a relatively short one as he seemed to already reside so comfortably in the temple of his soul. And, I will miss him greatly - his stories, his smile, his hugs, his emails, his intellect and his heart. Be well Bill.
-Lise Alschuler, ND Bastyr '94
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