DR. JOHN T. MILLS, PHD. July 31, 1937 - April 4, 2016 Peacefully and supported by his family, John Thomas Mills passed away at Salt Spring Island's Lady Minto Hospital on April 4, 2016. Dr. John Thomas Mills Phd. was the embodiment of renaissance man in life. Whatever J.T. Mills attempted in life he succeeded brilliantly - be it life, love, family, adventure, science, art, or legacy. His currency was knowledge, understanding, kindness, love and wisdom. John was an advocate for nature and creativity and invested his time accordingly. He believed in conversations worth having and inspired many in the process to pursue their dreams and fufill their potential. Throughout his life, John nurtured a climate of unconditional love to guide his family and support his friends. He radiated a creative curiosity that sparked his love of science and nature. It also led him around the world several times touching six continents in the process. John exuded a passion and enthusiasm for whatever he put his focus on. He grew worthy ideas and designed many experiences. His quiet determination and understated charm overcame whatever obstacles and disagreement he encountered in his path. He believed one's character and the real wealth in life is enhanced by meaningful life experience and fostering enduring relationships that stand the test of time and distance. Born in Redhill, Surrey in July 1937 - John took refuge from the war in his beloved Wales. Ever the explorer, he then charted a course that took him across post war Europe and the U.K. as a young man. When he graduated from Imperial College, London he built the quintessential ex-pat life during that sunset of a golden age in Trinidad's sugar cane plantations discovering and marrying the love of his life - the multi-talented Carol. (To Mom, Dad always received the award for Best Supporting Actor). Once he had mastered life in the tropics, John immigrated to Canada to work in Winnipeg for the Canadian Government as a plant pathologist - shifting gears to become a world authority in diseases of grain and a forensic expert (and quickly adapting to one of the coldest places on Earth). John and Carol raised two sons Richard and Nicholas, and later nurtured two grandsons Jordan and Samson. John's sense of adventure never ceased as he was always only a plane ride away from what ever pursuit he undertook - family often in tow. In 1974-1975 John and Carol transplanted their young family to Holland for over a year on a work sabbatical. Every weekend (and some weeks) were well planned visits to significant cultural institutions and historical landmarks that crisscrossed Europe. Trains, planes, automobiles and shoes were all well used on this vital mission. John's marriage to Carol endured lovingly for 43 years, and following her passing he realized their shared vision to build a family retreat on Salt Spring Island under the vigilant supervision of his loyal, lovable and rather furry companion Bear. In his retirement from civil service, John focused his passion and energy to encourage culture and science other ways: becoming president of the Manitoba Society of Artists as well as chairman of Rare Breeds Canada. Combining these two themes - John's artistic talents blossomed as he became a celebrated painter. He particularly loved capturing animals in context of their environments - excelling at his depiction in the diversity of horse breeds. To those that knew him best, John's passion for knowledge and understanding of many things was manifested in his casual ability to solve the most complex of crosswords and also to always ask thoughtful questions - ones worthy of answering. J.T. Mills was a true gentleman in every sense of the word: a devoted husband, an amazing father, a benevolent grandfather, and a stalwart friend, he was admittedly a terrible cook but above all be was a wonderful human being. John was a man that believed in the potential of others and made a profound difference to many. He made his world a much better place. He is missed by all those he encountered and his legacy will endure in the future through the generations he touched. A celebration of John's life will be held on his birthday July 31, 2016 on his beloved Salt Spring Island. Donations, in lieu of flowers, can be made in memory of Dr. John T. Mills to the Lady Minto Hospital Foundation, 135 Crofton Road, Salt Spring Island, BC V8K 1T1. This obituary may also be viewed at www.haywardsfuneral.com The artwork of John T. Mills can be viewed at www.johntmills.ca
As published in the Winnipeg Free Press on April 09, 2016
A CELEBRATION OF JOHN'S LIFE WAS HELD JULY 31.2016, JOHN'S BIRTHDAY, AT HIS RECENT HOME ON SALT SPRING ISLAND, BC.
John Mills' Celebration of Life, July 31st, by his son Richard
This past weekend, the Mills family celebrated the life and legacy of their patriarch, the late Dr. John T. MIlls on the 79th anniversary of his birth on Salt Spring Island BC in the company of close friends.
John is fondly remembered as a gentlemen and a scholar with a penchant for adventure. His fine character was typified by the quiet wisdom he often shared to friends and the unconditional love and support given to his extended family. Blessed with a curious mind and quick sense of humor, John was one of the more interesting men in the world able to easily master the most challenging crossword puzzles.
Yet underneath John's demure, appearance, was a razor sharp mind that excelled at understanding natural science and after his retirement shifted his focus to create vivid painted depictions of the natural world around him.
Born in Redhill, Surrey, England, John's passion for learning resulted in a PhD in Botany from Imperial College London, a career In sugar cane research ( the key ingredient in Rum !) in Trinidad- (super HOT climate), then a second career as a plant pathologist for the Canadian Government in Winnipeg ( very COLD climate ) becoming a world authority on grain dust explosions and diseases of grain. Along the way, John was posted to Europe for 18 months with his young family - being based in the Netherlands (very CULTURALLY RICH climate). Every weekend in that time was an unforgettable adventure to a great city or museum designed to inspire young minds.
John's combined travels touched six continents and involved all manner of conveyances - with the exception of camels and elephants.
John was also fondly remembered as a rather terrible cook - which in turn accelerated the culinary talents of his sons Richard and Nick as soon as the were old enough to make toast.
Also honoured was John's remarkable life partnership of 44 years with his beloved wife Carol - who passed away suddenly 10 years ago. In their years together they raised 2 sons, nurtured 2 grandsons, lived extensively around the world, bridged the worlds of science, education and art - and expanded the intellectual boundaries of those they met along the way .
Carol earned 3 degrees in Fine Art and Education after her sons went to high school. Once described as a Trinidadian hybrid of Julia Child, Georgia O'Keefe and Martha Stewart, Carol was a Caribbean creative tour de force who delighted in the execution of curated dinner parties full of conversations and food that mattered. (To the curious: watch Peter Sellers' classic film the Party as a fitting reference)
In keeping with the legacy fostered by both John and Carol, an abundance great food, the very finest of Caribbean rum, vivid colors , inspired stories, unexpected connections as well as the odd song were shared amongst the 45 people that could join us.
The location of the celebration event - the Mills Family retreat on Salt Spring Island was envisioned over 25 years ago by John and Carol and built over the past several years, the Mills' retreat was intended to be a gathering place to rejuvenate the spirit and an environment to recharge the body and mind as well be an incubator for creativity.
All that could attend this past weekend's event commented that this mission was brought to life in their own words - John and Carol would be most delighted with this result.
As this weekend unfolded, it was truly a celebration of lives lived fully and well; of partnership; of service to others and of acceptance - where every one who attended contributed in some special way.
Carol's brother Horace and John's sister Val shared their touching reflections as did Richard, Nicholas, Samson and cousin Darryl.
Special acknowledgement was also given to Bear - the super sized retriever - who served as John's constant canine companion for the past 10 years. Sadly Bear had just passed away in mid July from cancer.
The entire Mills family is most grateful at the outpouring of love, support and remembrance for John in the past few months and the countless contributions to make this event so memorable.
We will endeavor to keep John and Carol's legacy of service to others shining; their keen interest in the twin spirits of creativity and curiosity awake; and their passion for travel and adventure alive and well in the years ahead.
Nicholas and Richard, Samson and Jordan
Salt Spring Island BC July 2016