Scott Mills

Oct 02, 2017

Scott A. Mills, 93, died Aug. 2, 2017, at Waldo County General Hospital in Belfast. Mr. Mills served as a naval officer during World War II and later published three books about the experiences of prisoners of war and Japanese resistance in the Philippines.

He was born to Lora and Bert Mills in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1924, the youngest of three children. His father was secretary of the Bankers Life insurance company and his mother was a classically-trained soprano. He grew up with his two sisters on a 10-acre wooded property in downtown Des Moines known by the family as "The Green Forest," where he developed a lifelong love of trees and gardens.

Mr. Mills had a keen mind and loved learning, traveling, and meeting people. He was an adventurous world traveler and a lifelong stamp collector. He was a beloved father and grandfather and family members described him as steadfast, with a great laugh and a quiet sense of humor. He was generous, optimistic, caring and kind. Mr. Mills was a dedicated gardener. He loved nature, particularly trees, wildflowers and ferns and derived joy from collecting new specimens in the wild and bringing them under his careful attention. It was his greatest joy to observe their progress in his garden.

Mr. Mills attended Grinnell College in 1941 at age 17, enlisting in the Navy in January 1942 and entering the V-12 naval college training program in July 1943. He received two semesters of officer training at Newberry College in South Carolina, and finished with a 120-day intensive midshipman course for officer qualification in Plattsburgh, N.Y.

He served in the Navy as a communications officer during the war, participating in the invasion of Okinawa and the occupation of Japan. As a new officer, Mr. Mills boarded the new LCI (Landing Craft Infantry) 1080 in Bay City, Mich., and sailed it down the Mississippi and through the Panama Canal to San Francisco. From there they reached Guadalcanal in March 1945 and learned they would take part in the invasion of Okinawa. After the war, he accompanied the ship back to the Columbia River, where it was decommissioned.

Mr. Mills was discharged from military service in July 1946, and later wrote a personal account of his time in the Pacific. He went on to graduate from Grinnell College in 1947 and earned a master’s degree from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies a year later in Washington, D.C., as part of the school's third graduating class.

Mr. Mills began work in September 1948 for the War Department in the Office of the Army Chief of Staff, and remained there for 10 years. In 1958, he married Betty Lyons, of West Virginia, and began work at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. He worked as an engineer and technical writer at NASA for 25 years.

Retiring in his 50s, he began to write for pleasure. His first book, published in 1985, was "A History of West Nottingham" [Maryland Historical Press] about a Maryland prep school founded 1744. His next book was "The Butchers, the Baker: The World War II Memoir of a United States Army Air Corps Soldier Captured by the Japanese in the Philippines" [McFarland & Co., Inc. Publishers] published in 2000, and in 2002 "Mitsui Madhouse" [McFarland & Co., Inc. Publishers], both biographies of World War II prisoners of war. In 2009, he published "Stranded in the Philippines: Professor Bell’s Private War Against the Japanese" [Naval Institute Press].

"He would find an old soldier, and work with him to tell his story," said his daughter, Lora Mills. "He loved finding untold war stories and bringing them to light."

He continued working on writing projects into his 90s.

In his later years, Mr. Mills volunteered for Meals on Wheels in Silver Spring, Md., and later in Belfast. He delivered meals for the program until he was 90.

He spent summers in Maine starting in the 1960s, many at a camp he owned with his sister in East Vassalboro. He moved to Belfast permanently in 2012 to be near his family.

Gardening was his passion, and he enjoyed finding and incorporating wildflowers into his gardens. In his 80s and 90s he enjoyed gardening at his house in Belfast, swimming at Waldo County YMCA, and going out for lunch with his children and grandchildren at the hospital cafeteria, Tracy’s Diner, and Dockside Restaurant.

Sharp-witted and with a twinkle in his eye right up to the end, he was always game for an interesting discussion of history or world events. In the days before he died, he had started reading a book about Woodrow Wilson. With his long view of history, he held an unshakable faith in the United States, something many friends found comforting in these times.

Mr. Mills was predeceased by his parents, Bert and Lora, his first wife Betty Mills, and his two sisters, Marion Galenbeck and Beatrice Wall. His son, Scott Ladd Mills, passed away Aug. 24, 2017.

Mr. Mills is survived by daughters Doris, Becky, and Lora and his daughter-in-law Betsy Duncombe; as well as by his grandchildren Chad, Casey, Patrick, Lila, Elle, Jacob and Marissa. He is survived by great-grandchildren Courtney, Emma, and Joshua; and by several nieces and nephews. He is also survived by his former second and third wives, Ann Shore and Betty Fredericks.

A memorial service for Mr. Mills will be held Saturday. Oct. 7, at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 37 Miller St., Belfast, at 2 p.m. A pie potluck will follow the service.

Memorial donations may be made to: Running Strong for American Indian Youth; contact Billy Mills at http://indianyouth.org/ or 703-317-9881, ext. 129.

Arrangements are under the care of Riposta Funeral Home, 182 Waldo Ave., Belfast. Memories and condolences may be shared with the family at ripostafh.com.

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