Greg and Irmgart Mitchell on love, giving, helping students, and speedboats

Irmgart and Greg Mitchell have been spending a lot of time together since first noticing each other at Loma Linda University Medical Center more than three decades ago

When he was 20 years old, Greg Mitchell—who was then working in the dispatch department at Loma Linda University Medical Center—couldn’t stop thinking about a statuesque young lady who was employed as a physical therapy aide.

Her name was Irmgart Jedamski and one momentous winter Sunday, Greg realized the time had come to take action. He walked into her office and asked for her number.

Despite his confidence, Greg inadvertently betrayed a touch of nervousness. “He dropped his pencil,” Irmgart reports. Overall, however, he made a very favorable impression.

“When I saw Greg, my heart skipped,” she reveals. “We were both very comfortable with each other. He was just kind and real, not trying to impress me or be what he thought I might like.”

Despite his success, Greg got a cynical response when he bragged to a colleague about getting the number. “You’ll never use it!” the coworker sneered.

Rising to the challenge, Greg called Irmgart about a week later to ask if she might like to accompany him to a comedy venue with several of his college friends. She said that sounded like fun, and off they went.

A lot of things happened over the next few years. For one, Irmgart graduated with her BS degree in physical therapy from Loma Linda University School of Allied Health Professions in 1981. For another, the relationship blossomed and matured until they both knew the next step they took together should be down the aisle. On March 21, 1982, they married in the Campus Hill Church in Loma Linda. Two years later, Loma Linda University School of Dentistry awarded Greg a DDS degree.

Fast-forward to the summer of 2016 and Greg and Irmgart are still very much in love. It would not be an overstatement to say that 34 years, two daughters, and two grandchildren later, they still act like lovebirds. They stand close to each other when they talk looking directly into each others' eyes, smiling, laughing, touching.

Back in 2002, Greg bought a faded black 1972 Camaro Rally Sport coupe with “cheesy red velour interior” as a father/daughter restoration project for himself and the couple’s older daughter, Stephanie. She was soon to start college and Greg figured it was time she learned to care for her own car. He also made sure that younger daughter Katelin learned about cars.

By the time Greg and Stephanie finished renovating the Camaro, it was red with white stripes, and the velour had been replaced with dark gray vinyl. It got her through college with a touch of panache. Today, she owns the car with her husband, Stuart Seheult, but they let Greg and Irmgart take it for a spin once in a while.

For her part, Katelin—who is married to Rick Hickman—also mastered the finer points of auto repair. One afternoon a few years ago, she spotted a motorist stranded by the side of the road as she drove to the family avocado ranch in Moorpark, California. Most girls would have looked the other way or called AAA, but not Katelin.

“She fixed it and got him on his way,” Greg proudly reports. “The driver said, ‘Thank you very much! Your dad must not have had any boys.”

Today, Greg and Irmgart work at the School of Dentistry where he is director of clinical management systems and patient care services, and she is director of student services.

“Students say I’m the mother of the school,” Irmgart laughs. "Being in my position, I'm very aware of their needs."

Dental school is expensive, and students sometimes need help meeting expenses, especially when emergency situations arise. When that happens, they are relieved to learn that Greg, Irmgart, and other faculty donors have their backs.

“We’ve been donating regularly to different things for several years,” Greg explains. “We give to the Dean’s Circle as well as to scholarships and student emergency funds. We also co-sponsored a plaque on the Centennial Pathway to commemorate the start of the International Dentist Program. We have found that giving is beneficial for us as well as the institution that educated us both.”

Although they prefer to give directly when situations arise rather than through the payroll deduction plan, the Mitchell’s gifts still count toward both the Grow Together employee giving program and Vision 2020, the campaign for a whole tomorrow.

"The Grow Together program is very flexible," says Darin West, director. "We welcome the contributions of employees who give through the payroll deduction plan, but we are also very grateful for the gifts of Greg and Irmgart Mitchell and others who choose to support specific projects. Their generosity helps ensure that vital needs do not go unmet. We appreciate their kindness a lot!" Information about Grow Together is available online at http://advancement.lluhealth.org/grow-together

In their spare time, Greg and Irmgart love spoiling their grandchildren. “I enjoy the grandkids a lot,” he reports. She, however, takes things to a whole other level.

“There is nothing like them in the world,” she insists. “Being called ‘Omi’ is the best thing in the world. We live close enough that we get to see them a lot.”

Speedboats are the other passion of Greg’s life. About 20 years ago, he purchased a 1975 Sanger bubble deck powerboat. “It will do just over 90 m.p.h. with its current setup,” he reports, “but I have had engines in it that would put it over 100.”

Never satisfied, Greg refined the boat for the next eight years, trying out three or four different engines, refinishing the inside, and polishing or powder-coating all the aluminum and stainless steel. The biggest challenge was getting it ready for speed.

“It was relatively unsafe at the speeds I wanted to run it at when I got it,” Greg notes. “A lot of the work was just to get it to behave itself under a lot of power.”

Untold refinements later, the boat is a marvel of passion and performance. Lean and sleek, it features an enormous engine, huge pipes, and a snazzy white paint job with stripes and accents in purple, navy, gray, and pink. It looks fast sitting still.

It also looks expensive. “If Irmgart found out how much money I've actually spent on it over the years, I don't think we would be so happily married,” Greg confesses with a grin. “What's the old saying? ‘My biggest fear is that if something happens to me, my wife will sell all my stuff for what I told her I paid for it.’”