By Diane Urbani de la Paz
For Peninsula Daily News
PORT HADLOCK — In their 26 years married, Louise and David Mitchell have lived the “sickness and health, thick and thin” part of their wedding vows.
Louise is the full-time caregiver for her husband, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who uses a wheelchair due to a back injury he suffered many years ago.
Last spring, they were out of money and out of an apartment. They could not make rent on David’s disability benefits, so the couple found themselves homeless.
Louise sought help from the Olympic Community Action Programs, or OlyCAP, which administers the Peninsula Home Fund, and received their first voucher for Henery’s Do It Best Hardware in Port Townsend.
“We bought them a tent and camping gear, initially,” said Justine Bedell, their OlyCAP social worker. Then a friend gave the Mitchells a camper they could move into.
“In our little adventure, we acquired a fifth-wheel,” Louise, 52, said of the vehicle she and her husband live in with their dog, Homer.
The place needed a lot of work, though, so the Home Fund came through again, with a voucher for insulation and cleaning supplies at Henery’s.
With a total of $266 in Peninsula Home Fund vouchers, the couple was able to make the place their home.
“I never pictured my wife taking care of me,” said David, who suffers from severe arthritis in his hips.
When he gets out of a friend’s car, Louise lifts him up to lean on her as she transfers him, with grace, into his wheelchair.
When she looks at her husband, she sees the man with whom she fell in love: the lead singer in the band Tipsy Fox.
She caught sight of him some three decades ago at the Hilltop Tavern in Port Townsend. They hit it off, and she recalls him saying, “You’re a really nice person, and I’d go out with you. But you’re too fat.”
Louise agreed. At that point, she weighed 218 pounds.
Knowing she needed to make some big changes, she shaped up her eating habits and, over the course of six months, came down to 145 pounds.
Louise and David started seeing each other, and it didn’t take long for their romance to deepen. They were married March 3, 1990, and together raised two daughters from Louise’s previous marriage.
“He’s their dad,” she said.
“I think what impressed me most about David and Louise,” said Bedell, “is their partnership and loyalty to one another through some very horrible circumstances, not to mention their ability to survive and take care of what they need to do.
“I think a misconception of people in intense poverty is that they are lazy, and that is absolutely untrue. David and Louise manage to take care of life tasks facing some insurmountable odds. … [They] live on a very modest income, and they do not come to us unless they are in sincere need.”
Thanks to the donors who support it, the Peninsula Home Fund was there to meet that need.
David, for his part, is determined to be optimistic.
“I did ‘the grumpy,’ ” he admitted. That, he added, is so over.
David hopes to have surgery to treat his arthritis, “to get my legs back,” he said, “so I can dance with my wife one more time.”
Bedell added that both Louise and David are unfailingly kind, even as the world has been unkind to them. This, Bedell said, “has been an amazing reminder to me,” to be gentle as well, even when the world is not so.
“Our clients teach and remind me of new things all the time,” she said.