TRIBUTES have been paid to a genuine local hero at the heart of his community – led by the man whose life he saved more than 40 years ago.
Mitchell Aitken dived into the Forth and Clyde Canal in July 1971 to rescue a drowning boy – pulling him on to the bank and resuscitating him.
That boy – David MacDonald – now has a child of his own and lives in Dubai, but he travelled more than 3,500 miles to say goodbye to the man he owes his life to.
The former police sergeant passed away suddenly at home in Kirkintilloch on August 2 after suffering an abdominal aortic aneurism in his leg. He was 67.
Mitch served in the police for 34 years – including 11 at Kirkintilloch.
He was the driving force behind The Forum youth club in Hillhead for nearly 40 years – helping hundreds of youngsters access a host of activities and opportunties they might never have experienced.
Wife Mary, whom he married in 1966 after meeting her when she worked at the Co-op in Kirkintilloch, said: “The whole family are devastated.
“It’s been the suddenness and the shock that has hit us all really hard.
“He was a wonderful husband, father and grandfather. He loved his grandchildren to bits.”
A thanksgiving service was held at St David’s Memorial Park Church – attended by friends, family and even youngsters from the youth club – but there was a special surprise guest.
Mary (66) said: “This chap walked in. He stood in front of me – the tears were running down his face.
“He said: ‘My name is David MacDonald. I’m the boy your husband saved. I’m married now and I’ve got a son. I wouldn’t have had either of those things if it hadn’t been for your husband.’
“He said: ‘It’s so lovely to meet you and your family because I’ve got a lot to be thankful for – if it hadn’t been for him I wouldn’t be here today’.”
Mitch – a father of three and grandfather of three – was given a commendation from the police and a scroll from the Royal Humane Society after rescuing David.
The keen gardener and fishing enthusiast also did tireless work for charity.
An amazing £300 has been raised in his memory for Sense Scotland – where Mitch worked part-time after retiring from the police in 2000.
Another £300 has gone to Christian Aid – for whom Mitch did an 11-mile charity walk in June – and a further £300 to Samaritan’s Purse.
Mary – who worked at Stobhill for 34 years – said: “He was just a nice man. He was really well liked, well respected and well known. What sums him up was a life well lived.
“Generations of people have grown up with The Forum. The people who once went now have children of their own going.”
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