C.G. Mitchell (his friends call him Carl) of St. Petersburg has seen a lot in his 81 years.
He grew up in a children's home, one of many boys in a regimented ward where they always saluted the flag.
He ran five different businesses in the late 1960s — a coffee-sandwich shop, a clothing boutique, an eclectic shop called Leather, Feathers and Fur, a head shop and, perhaps his most successful venture, a store specializing in military collectibles — along storied Plum Street, Detroit's answer to San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury.
And, in between, he served as a combat medic — and watched his lover die — in the Korean War after entering the Army in 1949 as a 17-year-old, 98-pound kid from Detroit.
Mitchell, who is gay, said he was one of only seven men out of a company of 100 to survive the firefight. Today, he attends military funerals with the color guard to fulfill his lover's dying wish: "Don't forget me."
"My lover was killed right next to me. I always remember him every time they fire the three rounds (in honor of the deceased veteran)," he said.
Orphan, soldier, shopkeeper, registered nurse — and author — Mitchell moved here 11 years ago.
That's when he wrote a book called Marching to an Angry Drum, which deals with the difficulties enlisted gays and lesbians have when forced to lead double lives. It was something his therapist persuaded him to do to get over his loss.
He remains active with the military — he's in the color guard of American Legion Post 125 and is a life member of VFW Post 39 — and he's still writing.
Last year, for Memorial Day, Mitchell wrote a poem titled Remember Me to be recited on Memorial Day at the legion post. It's going to be read again this year.
It's dedicated to our honored dead who served in all branches of the military.
Asked why he wrote the poem, Mitchell said simply, "I'm a writer."
Next up from the author: Plum Street: Sex, Drugs and Rock 'n' Roll. The street, by the way, still exists but the original arts area is now a mere ghost, lost to the Fisher Freeway and the MGM Grand Casino.
Patti Ewald can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8746.