Gwin began life as Gwinnett Hopkins Jones on April 25, 1922, in her grandfather’s home on the top of the bluff above the small town of Port Deposit, Maryland. This historic little town is located on the northern bank of the Susquehanna River, about six miles north of where the river flows into Chesapeake Bay. The only child of Robert and Christine Jones, she spent summers here with her mother, her grandmother, and her aunt. Her father, a realtor in New York City, came down on weekends.
In the fall and winter, the family lived in an apartment on Seventh Avenue, within walking distance of Carnegie Hall and Central Park, where the well-known carousel was visited almost daily. On weekday mornings, Gwin attended a little private school in Turtle Bay Gardens, a rather exclusive residential area of the city.
After the start of the Depression, Gwin and her mother moved to Maryland permanently and Gwin went to public school in Port Deposit until 1934 when her father died and her mother went to work in New York. From then until 1938, Gwin went to Sunny Hills boarding school (now Sanford School) near Wilmington, Delaware. She went on to the University of Delaware, earning a BA and a membership in Phi Kappa Phi honorary society.
For a year, she lived in Scarsdale, NY, with her mother and stepfather, commuting to New York city where she worked in advertising production for the W. T. Grant Co. Once she turned 21, she enlisted in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (later the Women’s Army Corps) and, after a variety of stateside stations and duties, was discharged in 1946 as a first lieutenant. As editor of the WAC newspaper in Ft. Oglethorpe, GA, she wasprivileged to interview Marian Anderson, Mary Churchill, and tennis great Alice Marble. She later became a charter member of the national Women in Military Service for America organization.
She married her first husband, John D. Mitchell, when both were stationed at the Presidio of SF, he at the hospital train unit at Crissy Field and she at Letterman General Hospital. The family, including four children, moved to Lodi in 1957 when John was employed at Newfield’s Department Store. Gwin was employed as a part time reporter for the Lodi News-Sentinel, then programmed classical music for radio station KCVR. From 1960-1964, she was a part-time reporter in Lodi for the Stockton Record. From 1964-1969, she served as the first community relations officer for San Joaquin Delta College, organizing the office and procedures.
A particular delight during these years was meeting with representatives of other area community colleges to arrange schedules for speakers coming to the California area. This led to one-on-one meetings and discussions with actor Vincent Price, anthropologist Dr. Louis Leakey, cartoonist Al Capp, and sociologist Margaret Meade while transporting them from airports and settling them into their hotels.
In 1970 she earned a life secondary teaching credential from the University of the Pacific, and taught English at Lodi High School from 1969 to 1981, when she retired. Earning a master’s degree in linguistics and communication from UOP in 1971 and an administrative credential in 1976, she also taught Delta College night extension courses in composition and literature.
During her high school teaching years, Gwin served at various times as advisor to the Lodi High School newspaper and yearbook, California Scholarship Federation, and Student Activities Board. She received the 1977 Teacher of the Year award from the student body.
Over her years in Lodi, Gwin participated in a number of community groups, beginning as an active parent in Cub Scouts and Campfire Girls, and as president of George Washington School PTA. She was a charter member of the Lodi branch of the American Association of University Women, and helped organize and was charter president of Friends of the Lodi Library. She served on the board for a number of years in a variety of positions, including representative to the Citizens Advisory Board of the 49-99 Library System. She was also on the board of the Associates of University of the Pacific Libraries.
With Ed DeBenedetti, Gwin was co-founder of the Lodi Arts Commission, serving for four years as charter chairman. Later, she was a charter officer of Friends of Lodi Lake. With her second husband, Jack Paden, she was responsible for starting the Performing Arts Guild, later named The Arts at St. John’s, at St. John’s Episcopal Church.
Over the years, she was president of the Lodi Sister City Committee, Lodi League of the Stockton Symphony, and the Stockton-Lodi branch of the National Association of American Pen Women (three times).
Her community interests were expressed in officer positions and committee responsibilities in the United Way of San Joaquin County, Lodi Safety Council, Woman’s Club of Lodi, Newcomers Club, Tokay Players, Neighborhood Watch, Lodi Chamber of Commerce, Lodi Garden Club, Stockton Chorale Association (ten years on the board), Stockton Symphony Association, and Emperor Branch of the Lodi Memorial Hospital Auxiliary. She served as a Pink Lady at the hospital for 13 years. In 2003, she became a member of Chapter IM, PEO Sisterhood, where she served as chaplain for several years.
She was a member of or supported the Lodi Art Center, the Lodi and San Joaquin Historical Societies, the Haggin Museum, the San Joaquin Zoological Association, Stockton Civic Theater, the Stockton Opera Association, Delta Humane Society, PAWS, Animal Friends Connection, PALS, the Salvation Army, the Lodi Community Center, and Covenant House of Los Angeles, as well as various area and national animal, health, and ecological organizations. For 20 years, she placed seasonal flower arrangements in the Lodi Public Library.
In 2007, Gwin joined Lodi Post 22 of the American Legion, serving first as publicity chairman and then, briefly, as chaplain.
Health issues subsequently required her to cancel active participation in most groups. She occasionally helped with publicity here and there, and continued writing her column for the Lodi News-Sentinel until 2018. (She started writing it in 1999.)
Professional memberships have included California Teachers Association, California Retired Teachers Association, and the University of the Pacific chapters of Phi Kappa Phi and Phi Delta Kappa, honorary scholastic and education societies.
Gwin was an active 30-year member of First United Methodist Church before affiliating with St. John’s Episcopal Church in 1987, where she met and married her second husband, John (Jack) K. Paden, a graduate of West Point. Later, for a while, they attended St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Galt, where both were active. During this marriage, they attended Jack’s 50th class reunion, and spent six weeks piloting their own boat on the English canals.
Her awards have included a life membership in PTA, 1957; Lodi Soroptimist Woman of the Year, 1985; Susan B. Anthony county-wide award for community service, 1987; William T. Harkins Outstanding Citizen Award, given by the Lodi Chamber of Commerce, 1988; United Way Volunteer of the Year, 1991; and Hall of Fame, Lodi Boys and Girls Club, 2010.
She is survived by her four children, John H. Mitchell (Christine), Donald R. Mitchell (Alana), Christine A. Smith (Bob) and Nancy M. Mitchell (Jerry Fisher); two grandchildren, Aaron J. Alonzo (Maria Castellanos) and Hillary M. McGarvey (Jesse); three great-grandchildren, Shane Alonzo, Elliott McGarvey, and Isaac Alonzo. Extended family includes Stephanie Alonzo-Rosas and Christian Rosas; Justin Paden; Bonnie Mitchell and Jeff Mitchell.
Gwin was an exemplary mother, citizen, leader, and friend. She deeply loved all her children as individuals with all our faults and foibles. She welcomed our friends and enjoyed them as her own. She was precise in her ways and her language but flexible in her embrace of others. She was quite the gardener and knew all about the plants, trees and shrubs that graced the family home on Palm Avenue. Many will recall the beauty of her yard.
She will be remembered for her practical approach and willingness to listen. The willingness to dispense opinion and advice went right along with that, of course. So many have been touched by our mother, and we appreciate those of you who have shared your fond memories.
Due to COVID 19, no services are planned at this time. Gwin will be buried at West Nottingham Cemetery, Colora, Maryland alongside her father.
For those of you who would like to remember Gwin in a special way, we suggest a few ideas that would resonate with her: befriend and care for an animal; volunteer in organizations that benefit others; salute a veteran or service member; be a good citizen; and for Pete’s sake, use some common sense!
The family would like to thank her many friends who were so thoughtful to remain engaged with her after her move to River Fountains. Her church family remained an important presence in her life. We would like to thank her caregivers at home, especially Ester and Liz. Thank you to Rosie Wagner, special friend and helpmate. The staff at River Fountains became her second family, and we deeply appreciate their help, care, and concern for our mother.
Gwin was a unique, intelligent, and loving person who will be greatly missed.
Correspondence to the family may be addressed in care of Chris Smith, 9293 Wagner Heights Ct., Stockton, CA 95209.
Published in Lodi-News Sentinel from Jan. 5 to Jan. 12, 2021.