Students reflect on death of Fresh worker

Noah Moore

Students and faculty will notice something different about the Fresh Food Company front counter this week. The smiling face of Debra Wiley-Mitchell won’t be there to welcome them. Wiley-Mitchell lost her battle to pancreatic cancer this past Sunday and passed away in St. Louis with her family at her side.

You may have known her as the friendliest cafeteria employee, or simply the fastest swiper at the counter. However, you may have known her, Wiley-Mitchell was a key component of many students’ days on campus.

On Tuesday, a memoriam tweet was made by Hilltopper Nutrition. 

Replies flooded in from students and alumni remembering the sweet, unique personality which made eating at Fresh that much more memorable.

Antonio Mouncil, WKU graduate in the class of 2016, tweeted:

WKU student Allie Rumohr tweeted:

Making the transition from home to college is never easy, but students could always count on Wiley-Mitchell to make home seem a little less far away.

“We loved her. She was great at getting people into Fresh and having that loving attitude that reminded people of home,” WKU Dietitian Brandi Breden said.

Breden recalls the many memorable encounters she had working beside Wiley-Mitchell.

“She was a very honest, loving, tell-it-how-it-is kind of lady. I remember that every time I hung out with her at the front, if a group walked in and a male walked before a female, she would say ‘ladies first’. She was all about teaching manners,” Breden said.

“As a dietitian, she often called me out for getting a dessert,” Breden laughed. “She was so fun-loving, with some hilarious sass.”

However, beyond the faculty, Wiley-Mitchell held a special place in the hearts of many students. Even though students encounter a plethora of employees every day, somehow something about Wiley-Mitchell stuck out. Junior Jacob Hayslip recounts the unique spirit she had.

“The amount of joy she packed into the fleeting moments while swiping my ID at Fresh in the morning was truly special,” Hayslip said. “I think I can speak for most if not all students who were fortunate enough to meet her when I say she will be greatly missed.”

Not only did Wiley-Mitchell leave her mark on many students and faculty, but she was also once named Special Coach by the WKU Women’s Basketball Team, a position voted on by the team itself, many of whom frequented Fresh daily.

Although Wiley-Mitchell will no longer be there to welcome students , faculty and visitors alike at the doors of Fresh Food Company, her legacy will continue to inspire students to be the best version of themselves and to always keep smiling no matter the circumstances.

Reporter Noah Moore can be reached at (270)745-2655 and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @noah_moore18.