WILLIAMSTOWN -- The Berkshire County District Attorney's office has released the identity of a man killed by a train in a recent accident near Moody Bridge along the Pan Am Southern railway.
Peter M. Mitchell, 67, who was technically homeless but spent the last seven years of his life alternately finding shelter in Williamstown and with family in Texas, was killed on the track at roughly 2 a.m. on Saturday, June 9. Mitchell's body was found later that morning at around 9:30 a.m.
Frederick A. Lantz, spokesman for the district attorney's office, confirmed Mitchell's identity this week, after the accident was investigated by Massachusetts State Police and the Pan Am Railroad Police Department.
"I know from the police reports that he was a local homeless man, and that could be why it took so long to confirm his identity and notify next of kin of the accident," Lance said.
Attempts to reach Cynthia Scarano, executive vice president at Pan Am Railways, for comment were unsuccessful.
Susan Rose, a Williamstown woman and a 10-year acquaintance of Mitchell's, was able to share some details of the man in light of the tragic news.
"He was a hobo, 26 years on the road, who loved to walk from state to state," Rose said. "He'd been everywhere but Kentucky. I met him while I was in school. I was taking a black and white photography class and saw him with his bike and paraphernalia spread all over the place and thought, ‘Wow, what a photograph.' I took a couple photos while he told me stories about all his adventures and where he'd been. ... He was a very kind and gentle man."
The two developed a friendship, fostered by a mutual love for art, the outdoors and Berkshire County, that would last until Mitchell's death.
Among other things, Rose said Mitchell was known for his encyclopedic knowledge of the country, his physical durability -- often withstanding weather of every extreme during his travels -- his painting, and his two great loves: adventure and fellow human beings.
On several occasions, Mitchell handed out blank canvasses he'd constructed himself to Williamstown residents on Cole Avenue, saying "I want your first painting."
"I remember him telling me one time ‘the best adventure of my life will be when my spirit leaves my body,' " Rose said. "Poof. He had no sense of sadness or loss. ... The Berkshires are going to miss his smile."
Mitchell was survived by his 105-year-old mother and four children.