Eight Bells: Art Mitchel

Published on December 7th, 2021

Art Mitchel, an integral contributor to the strength and growth of Harken, passed away December 3, 2021 in Milwaukee, WI. He was 84 years of age.

Art was old school in a never-take-the-easy-way-out sort of way. As the ‘Corporate Navigator’ of Harken (yes, it was on his business card), he was the third member of the company’s original afterguard. While Peter Harken covered product development and Olaf Harken covered marketing, Art kept the business on track, making the Harken brothers and the company the success it is today.

Famous in the inner circle at Harken, Art carried a personal moral compass that he shared generously at Harken. He served a higher purpose than just day-to-day work. It was service to what was right.

For Harken, it began as Peter Harken’s college roommate, eventually joining Peter and his brother Olaf to run Harken and Vanguard Sailboats as the third leader of the company, through to helping create the legacy that will live on for generations of the now employee-owned company.

He taught those around him to think for themselves, to do their best, and to do what was right – even when it was hard. He applied that moral compass. A word uniquely Art Mitchel was Sisu. Rarely expressed by Art in words, but always shown in his deeds. Anyone who sailed, skied, ran, or did business with him witnessed his uncommonly strong Sisu.

Sisu is Finnish—as was Art. It’s very hard to define completely in English. Sisu means grit. Sisu means duty. Sisu describes willingness to do work that no one else is willing to do, simply because it’s the right thing. Even in silence. Even when no one else is watching.  No matter how hard that work is. Today there’s an award at Harken given to an employee who stops at nothing to get the seemingly impossible accomplished. On it is a large picture of Art Mitchel.

“I’ve known my right-hand buddy, worked, sailed, skied, and had one adventure after another with Art for over 60 years!” said Peter Harken. “No better person have I ever met. He was truly an unsung legend and one of a kind, the best of the best! Now, he’s sailing in the skies above. Good Duty, Art!”

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