Crossed over: Artist Mitchell dies four years after crosswalk incident

Less than two months after settling his lawsuit against the Albemarle County police officer who struck him in a crosswalk in November 2007, artist Gerry Mitchell has died.

"The idea of not seeing him again is unimaginable," says friend Jennifer Grant, who stayed with Mitchell over the last week of his life until his death late Saturday night, December 3.

While Mitchell had suffered from AIDS and related complications since the 1980s, his doctors say his health woes were exacerbated by injuries sustained when he was struck as he crossed West Main Street in his wheelchair on November 5, 2007. Community outrage soared with news that pedestrian Mitchell, who'd been crossing with a green light, had been ticketed by Charlottesville police in what many saw as a police cover-up.

News that Albemarle County Officer Gregory C. Davis had been texting during the accident, information that came out through the $850,000 suit Mitchell filed, stoked anger and led to the County's offer to settle in October.

For Mitchell, the settlement was small consolation, says his younger brother, Corky Mitchell.

"All he ever really wanted out of that situation was an apology," says Corky. "He never got that, and that's a sad sign of the times."

If the case thrust MItchell into the spotlight for the final years of his life, it's not what those who loved him will remember him by.

"He had joie de vivre unlike anyone I've ever met," says Corky, describing Mitchell as "always positive," a trait he showed even in childhood.

"When we were little, he had a way of clarifying things that were perplexing for me," says Corky, recalling a family cat that went up a tree and wouldn't come down. "I was very upset about it," he recalls, but Mitchell had a smile and words of comfort. "He said, 'Relax, you ever seen a cat skeleton in a tree? Come on inside, we'll have some Kool Aid. The cat'll come down.'" 

Another friend, Angela "Silver Star" Daniel, says Mitchell's buoyant personality lifted those around him.

"Gerry found a way to be happy and joyful through vast number of hardships in his life, any one of which would easily bring a person into despair," she says, noting that "he gave me hope to continue on in the face of any adversity."

In his adult life, art was Mitchell's passion– he created large vibrant works that he described as spiritual visions.

"His artwork sustained him, gave meaning to his life," says Grant, noting that when Mitchell– who has a show hanging at the Jeweler's Eye– became too ill to paint, he decided to end the grueling dialysis treatment he'd been undergoing after being diagnosed with terminal kidney cancer.

"That was a big determining factor for him," she says, "when his bad days became more than his good days."

Both Corky Mitchell and Grant say at the end of his life, Mitchell was comfortable.

"He'd made peace with a lot of things," says Corky, who saw Mitchell for the last time on Thursday and is still struggling to believe his brother, who would have turned 58 on Christmas Day, is gone.

"It's like a light went out," he says.
A memorial service for Gerry Mitchell will be held on Friday, December 9 at 1pm at Trinity Episcopal Church at 1042 Preston Avenue.


1:30pm Dec. 6: Post updated with quotes from Angela Daniel Silver Star and memorial information. –ed.

Read more on: Gerry Mitchell


I'm so very sad.

The lawyers have a lot, lot, lot to answer for: we can't apologize without admitting liability anymore. That's not civil and it diminishes us.

Gerry will be remembered as a great artist and a great humanitarian. All those involved in the case against him will be remembered for their immoral and cowardly abuse of power. In the City several share the blame, Chief Longo, first in line, but then the City Manager Mr. Jones who should have overruled Longo, and if not Jones, then the Mayor, Dave Norris, should have had the courage to step in and put a halt to this injustice.

Gerry will remembered for all the good he did, but let the historical record show what was done to this wonderful human being.

Thank you Courteney for once again making us proud to have one newspaper in town, the Hook, willing to continue the noble task of standing up to those in power, to tell the people's story.

I met the man and hung out with him and some friends one evening about 12 or 13 years ago. I remember it as an incredibly enjoyable and funny time. Mr. Mitchell had a warmth that exuded from him, was very funny and loved to laugh.

Even though I barely knew the man, I'll miss him.

One of the most UN-selfish people I've ever met...........When he'd come to the City Market on Saturdays, never one word about his own problems. He was always very supportive of other artists. I will always remember, among other things, his encouragement & suggestions when I started setting up at the City Market. Never preach-y or know-it -all, but a genuine interest in seeing another artist's efforts become successful. Always positive about others' efforts, whatever their projects might be. I never heard him say anything negative about anybody.
His passing will leave a hole in the lives of the people lucky enough to have known him..... Lucy

I met Mr. Mitchell at the framing counter in Michael's. We were both waiting for some work to be done and struck up a conversation. I knew he was "the man from the crosswalk" but never mentioned it. We talked about his work, which he was having framed, and about the joy found in creating what's in your heart. The paintings he had with him were small and lovely. I enjoyed meeting him and am sad I won't have the chance to talk to him again. Simply put, he was a really nice guy.

and all he wanted was an apology......................

Courage, love, generosity, humor, Spirit, kindness, humility, and creativitywere all bountiful in Gerry. He leaves us a lrgacy in his art philanthropy, mostly in the positive effect he had on everyone who crossed his path. And he will be dearly missed. I feel sad and grateful. I love you, gerry.

I am Grateful for the bit I knew Gerald, & for the Good he is.

Gerry was such a positive, loving, beautiful human being. I'm sure he touched many people's lives and will be sadly missed. Rock the light eternal Brother Gerry! We love ya!

Gerry's middle name was "Emmanuel" or God With Us. During his time on this earth, his spirit was like a god in our midst. His birthday was also on Christmas, another reminder of his divine nature.

Thanks for the laughs and good times, Ger. Trip the light fantastic, my friend.

2 days and no post from GSOE?

Mr. Mitchell should be an inspiration to many, especially children. He overcame many obstacles and yet was still stalwart enough to become an icon in this community.