January 17, 1942 ~ May 26, 2022
Born in: Rosston, Arkansas
Resided in: Los Angeles, California
On January 17, 1942, Bernice Mitchell was born to Louie Bell and Daisy Lee (nee Smith) Mitchell in Rosston, Arkansas. She often talked of her mother’s kind and sweet disposition and her love of shopping—a hobby she inherited. She frequently bragged about how her father, who spent lots of time hunting and fishing, loved her cooking. One of eight siblings, Bernice was the fifth of six beautiful girls—Athie Lee Holliman, Mae Sue Hale, Clotilde Roby, Shirley Box, and Wanda Faye Mitchell. Her strong, handsome brothers—Jerry C. Mitchell and Derry Lee Mitchell—definitely had their hands full with the Mitchell Sisters. The love of her parents and all of her siblings was showered on Bernice’s firstborn, Sandra K. Mitchell, whom they affectionately called “Squash.”
The entire Mitchell family sorely missed Bern when she decided to join her sister Clotilde in Chicago. Once in the Windy City, Bernice developed an incredibly close circle of friends that became her family away from home. She did well as a seamstress for Hart Schaffner Marx. As she settled into life in the Midwest, Bern welcomed her second daughter Marsha Denise Mitchell-Bray. The talkative toddler, “Niecy” to family and friends, was a source of joy and laughter to the young mother. Bern made sure her Arkansas clan got to see the girls during the summer months.
It was during a vacation to see sister Wanda in Los Angeles in the summer of 1973 that the young family’s life changed. Bern took one look at the palm trees and decided to make the City of Angels their new home. As one who NEVER met a stranger, she soon had a new circle of friends. Los Angeles was the place where Bernice met James Peoples—the love of her life. They enjoyed many good years traveling around California and the West Coast with The BonTons, their van club. Bernice began a new career in retail as a sales associate for Von’s grocery store She also worked for F.W. Woolworth until the store closed in 1997. She went on to work for Robinson’s May/Macy’s. Bernice retired as “Ms. Treasure Hunt,” which is what many of her customers called her when they saw her about town—even well after the store closed.
Retirement greatly increased Bernice’s joy for life. She became an avid sports fan—watching everything from hockey to basketball. She loved the Dodgers and Lakers. She developed a passion for Scratchers and was often convinced she had won “a big one,” no matter what the scanner said. She was a regular on senior Tuesdays at Ross Stores though it is not clear the salespeople felt the same, as she was serial returner. Whenever possible, she headed to casinos with her beloved travel groups, participated in activities around L.A. with her partners at the Jim Gilliam Senior Center, traveled to see friends and family, and regularly celebrated with friends and family, including at one of her favorite locations “The Ranch,” which she affectionately named Marsha’s home.
Bernice loved the Lord and was baptized at Trinity Baptist Church in 2009. Legacy bearers who will forever celebrate and honor her memory include her daughters Sandra and Marsha, son-in-love Omar, grandchildren Lauren, Malik, and Malcolm, her two surviving siblings—Wanda and Derry Lee—and a host of loving nieces, nephews, relatives, and friends. She will be forever missed by all who know her.
Our family thanks you for joining us in paying tribute to our matriarch’s well-lived life.