Mitchell Chapin Durbin


Mitchell C. Durbin
7/28/24 –- 6/17/13

Stop in any morning at the Julian Pie Company in Santa Ysabel, and more likely than not you would find the “€œmayor”€ of Santa Ysabel (as dubbed by his friends), Mitch Durbin, having coffee with his “€œboard of supervisors”€, Jim, Bob, Bill, Glen, Bob, et al, observing the comings and goings of their community at that crossroads corner of Highway 78 and Highway 79.  Each afternoon found him having coffee in Julian with his equally dear group of friends Bea, Gary, Cliff, Bud, and others.  Dressed in his retirement “€œuniform”€ so similar to his work days – freshly pressed blue shirt, baseball cap, and boots, Mittchell C. Durbin had an interest in every detail of his surroundings and the people and their stories with whom he came in contact each day.  Mitch left his treasured daily routines and this life, on Monday June 17, 2013, on his way to coffee with those great friends, driving the highway he knew so well, in the community he loved so well.

Mitch was an icon in his community and among his former colleagues at SDG&E. Nothing personified him more than his role as an electric troubleshooter throughout the backcountry for most of his 48 year career at SDG&E.  It may have been because, to be a troubleman in that territory, means to be covering a very large area and therefore meeting and bringing help to so many people.  At least as important though is that it’€™s a territory of backcountry people who have a realness and warmness that makes being a part of their community more like being a part of their families.

Added to that is Mitch’€™s unforgettable personality.  He was as a real gentleman of the old school, had a friendliness and a smile for everyone, and a huge curiosity about everything in his world.  When you met him, it wasn’€™t long before he was asking you about the story of your life.  He could make a quip out of any mundane remark and good-naturedly teased every waitress who ever served him.  As fun as he was, he had a strong sense of right and wrong and always tried to do the right thing.

Born July 28, 1924 in Tustin, California, Mitch’€™s parents Gladys and Holmes moved to San Diego when Mitch was a baby, and had a daughter Jean (Ray Offord – deceased 2011).  As a boy, Mitch was in the Bonham Brothers’ Marching Band.  Mitch was a graduate of San Diego High School and served in the US Navy near the end of WWII as a submariner.  After the Navy, he parked cars at the US Grant Garage, and worked at the Union Ice Company.  In 1947, he went to work at San Diego Gas & Electric, following in his grandfather John Mitchell’€™s footsteps.  Starting in the electric meter shop, Mitch then began his career as a lineman.

In 1951 he met and married the hard-working and beautiful Lois Robinson and as the children came along, they moved from his lineman days in El Cajon, to his SDG&E troubleman assignment in Coronado, and then, and for the rest of his life, Santa Ysabel.  Mitch and Lois loved the mountain community and enjoyed square dancing in earlier years, and Mitch always enjoyed rousing marching band music, old school country music and watching Lois ham-it- up in the Julian Triangle Club’€™s annual Melodrama productions.

Mitch and his beloved late wife Lois, raised 4 children in the little house in front of the Santa Ysabel SDG&E substation.  Oldest son Dale (Teresa), and daughter Diane Durbin followed their dad into a wonderful career at SDG&E.  Son Dan made a successful career in the automotive service business, and daughter Donna Kendall (Bob), has been a military wife, complete with oversees stations.  Mitch was always happiest sharing after-dinner conversation with his family and was extremely appreciative of those times.

Mitch was well-known for his love of classic Shelby Mustangs and open wheel midget and sprint car racing.  In his younger years, he participated in Modified racing as a team member in the San Diego Racing Association at Balboa Stadium on the Darrough/Carmichael team.  In the 1960’€™s, he was involved at Cajon Speedway, and with his Darrough cousins’€™ Ramona Drag Strip in a variety of roles.  He shared a love of racing with his sons, and he started them in quarter midget racing in the early 60’€™s.  Racing was a family passion he shared through all his sons’€™ different racing endeavors, and you would always find Mitch supporting his sons from the grandstands.

Over the years whenever a storm or other problem brought havoc to the electrical system in the backcountry, Mitch and his SDG&E truck were always to be found getting the repair process started and the power back on for his neighbors. His career duties even included patrolling electrical lines from a helicopter to ensure the lights stayed on.

While Mitch’€™s kids Dale, Dan, and Diane came along in quick succession, his last daughter Donna came along later in his life after those hectic early years of establishing a career and sideline of an electrical business.  Her birth afforded Mitch and Lois the chance to slow down and spend a little more time with Donna and she was truly a help to her mom and dad in their later years when she was in close proximity to them in Santa Ysabel.

Mitch was profoundly proud of his 12 beloved grandchildren, Andy Phillips (Dale and Teresa), Stephanie McDowell and Tiffany Fowler (Diane), Mitchell and Lindsey Durbin (Dan), Corinne Maxfield, Dan Kendall, Tara (Kendall) Price, Troy, Krista, Kelsey, and Natalie Kendall (Bob and Donna Kendall), and his 7 great grandchildren, Scottie, Shauna, Shane, Colton, Degan, Kynlee, and Monica Grace.

Mitch’€™s retirement in 1995 allowed for more time to spend working on his financial investing pastime and he enjoyed the challenge of trying to turn a profit no matter the economic climate.  He lost his dear Lois in 2002 and the home they built together for their retirement was lost in the 2003 Cedar Fire.  Through the loss of his wife, Mitch took a devastating hit, but the challenge of rebuilding his home saw him regain his spirit as he focused his energy and slowly rebuilt his life.  Through it all, the abiding love of his family, the brotherhood of his former coworkers, and the warm friendship of the mountain community members gave Mitch a wonderful life and his family wants to express its deepest appreciation for the respect and love everyone has always shown to him, and have shown to the family in the loss of this fine man.

His family will have a Celebration of Mitch’€™s Life at 11:30am Saturday June 29, 2013 at Mountain View Community Church, 1191 Meadowlark Way (near intersection of Ash St and Pine St) Ramona, CA 92065.  In lieu of flowers, donations in Mitch’€™s name may be made to the San Diego Burn Institute, American Heart Association, or your favorite charity.

Bonham Bros & Stewart Mortuary and Cremation Service is assisting the family.


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Condolence Messages

  1. Lori Krauss Toombs :

    We wish to express our sadness to the entire Durbin family and friends who have lost such a vital and inspirational man. Mitch was an awesome role model for his children and showed them by example how to lead a family and support them in fulfilling their dreams. They don’t make them better than Mitch! We pray for strength and peace. Goodbye, Gentleman Mitch. You will be missed! Mike and Lori Toombs

  2. Inan Grand Linton :

    Thank you for sharing what a kind, loving, generous “gentle” man Mitch was to all of us who grew up in the back country.

  3. I am Taken Back!!!! I did not know my Mitchie was gone.. I have had some of my own health issues and haven’t been out n about to much lately!! This man was ONE terrific guy! I am as ALL of Julian must be saddened for his loss. I tied to trade him my 1980 528i BMW for his Mustang, his exact words were “Bring your lunches little girl” cuz you’ll be waiting a long time.” and kissed me on the cheek adding “Nice ride tho, little girl”

  4. Sammantha McDonald :

    Working with Mitch at SDGE was such a pleasure. He was always there for the people of the backcountry and his family and friends. He will be missed. Condolences to all who are sharing his loss.

  5. John Digenan :

    So very sorry about the loss of your Dad. He was one of my “favorites”. He’s moved on now and will be missed, but the way he lived his life and and treated others can always assure you that he will live on in the hearts of others. God is everlasting, and good people are in his care when they go home. Your father is settling in to that next phase of life now and I’m sure making the very best of it with old friends and family.

  6. The John Stanley Family :

    We wish to offer our profoundly sincere love to you in this time of passing. Your Father was an incredible man and his children are just as blessed. Mitch did so much for all of us here in Julian. He was a man among men…. And such a sweetheart … The world was a better place because of his presence. ….

  7. Richard Rivero :

    I’m so sorry and saddened by the lost of your dad, grandfather, great grandfather and in many ways my dearest of friends and one of the best guys at work as well. Mitch was always there teaching, telling stories and always has the twinkle in his eyes and that great smile. I’ll miss him and will always wish I knew he had coffee there for I would have met him more often. He once told me about the memories living in the company house next to the substation and about his growing and loving family. Dale please keep in touch. God Bless him and the Family for he will be missed.

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