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Joseph N. Mitchell, 82; Benefactor, Head of Family Insurance Firm

December 09, 2004|From a Times Staff Writer

Joseph N. Mitchell, former president of Beneficial Standard Life Insurance Co. and Beneficial Standard Corp. holding company, Los Angeles community leader and major fundraiser for causes including the Music Center, United Way and Jewish charities, has died. He was 82.

Mitchell died Tuesday at his home in Beverly Hills of Parkinson's disease, said his son, Jonathan.

Born in Winnipeg, Canada, Mitchell moved to Los Angeles with his family as a child and studied at UCLA before dropping out to serve in the Army in Europe during World War II.

Returning to Los Angeles in 1946, he joined the company his father, Edward D. Mitchell, started in 1940 to sell low-cost disability insurance. The Mitchells built the small insurance firm into Beneficial Standard Corp., a financial services holding company that is active in life and casualty insurance, marketing, real estate and mortgage loans.

"I started in the mailroom, I believe, and then went through all the departments of the company," Joseph Mitchell told The Times in 1984, when the company was sold to CalFed. His father died a year later.

Mitchell served as chairman of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce; the Music Center Unified Fund Campaign; United Crusade and its successor, United Way Los Angeles; the Los Angeles Bonds for Israel campaign; and the United Jewish Welfare Fund. He also headed the board of directors of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and was on the executive committee of the Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles, and the boards of the utility Pacific Lighting Corp., the United Jewish Appeal and Jewish Community Foundation.

In 1969, Mitchell received the Brotherhood Award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews for "exceptional contributions to the improvement of human understanding."

In addition to his son, he is survived by his wife of 58 years, Beverly; daughters Jan Mitchell and Karin Ulrich; sisters Kayla Mitchell and Elaine Attias; and five grandchildren.

Services are scheduled for noon Friday at Hillside Memorial Park, 6001 Centinela Ave., in Los Angeles. The family has asked that any memorial donations be made to a charity of the donor's choice.

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