Mildred Kathleen Gillis, 94, died peacefully at home on November 15, 2016, with loving family and friends by her side. Millie was born in Eastport, Maine on September 16, 1922, to John E. Gillis and Eleanor Madeline Page Gillis, the fourth of seven children in her family. A self-proclaimed New England Girl, Millie treasured her city by the sea so rich with life’s lessons that would guide her future.
When the Great Depression took hold in 1929, Millie stepped into her first caregiver role with her younger brother and sisters while both parents worked tirelessly. She learned to protect them against the prejudice associated with growing up poor, even though most families lived in poverty at that time. Millie was also one of many young children who worked beside her Mother in a local sardine factory during school breaks. Determined to succeed in life, she rose to the challenge with support from her revered Principal and first boss, Brooks Varney, dedicated teachers, and Peavey Memorial Library staff, who inspired her to dream for a better future. A passionate student, Millie graduated from Shead Memorial HS in 1939, two years earlier than planned, and immediately began working full time, her dream of college deferred.
The Great Depression also brought joy to Millie’s life when Allen Lumbra from Vermont joined the Quoddy Village NYA Recovery Program that welcomed an ethnically diverse group of young men from throughout the Northeast. Al was grateful to his NYA friends who taught him to dance, a key to winning Millie’s heart! Al and Millie married in 1940, and raised two girls, Patsy and Sandy, on the family farm in Vermont and in Connecticut, where they brought together rich family traditions with their extended family including close friends from NYA for years to come.
When Al suffered a disabling stroke in 1960, Millie put her keen intellect to work in administrative roles with employers such as RCA and the State of Connecticut. Al passed away in 1970 and, following Patsy’s death in 1976, Millie raised her two grandchildren, Tracey and Allen, with her second husband, Russell Rood. She brought life full circle in 1998, when she returned to Eastport where she “paid city taxes on 220 square feet,” the addition, with its distant view of Passamaquoddy Bay and many childhood memories.
Millie’s family and friends remember her as a person who did her part to make the world a better place. She actively supported civil rights, animal rights, environmental protection and women’s rights long before those movements became organized. At 86, Millie jumped into politics for the first time. She enthusiastically campaigned for Barack Obama, whose political agenda was closely aligned with her beliefs and whose character and intelligence she believed were unsurpassed in the Oval Office during her lifetime. She was proud of her President and First Lady and never missed an opportunity to hear them speak or to share her views about their accomplishments.
Millie’s family and friends also enjoy fond memories of her fun-loving side as an avid gardener, dancer and beachcomber who never lost her excitement about learning or as ‘Mamma Bear’ who relished big family gatherings with late night storytelling and the chance to laugh at her own jokes. In later years, Millie’s love of animals became her greatest passion as she made friends on long walks around Eastport with her beloved rescue dogs, Bandit, Honey and Mindy, without question the best companions in the world!
Millie was predeceased by her husbands, Allen Lumbra and Russell Rood; daughter, Patsy Lumbra; brothers, Allan, George, Arnold and Stanley Gillis; and sister, Elizabeth Clukey. She leaves behind her daughter, Sandra Lambert; granddaughter, Tracey Rood; grandson, Allen Rood, his wife Audrey and daughter Shannon; her very special baby sister, Eleanor Fecteau, and sister-in-law, Lorraine Gillis; and her nieces and nephews, “too wonderful for words,” from her Gillis, Lumbra and Rood families. Per her wishes, Millie was laid to rest during a family service on November 21st, alongside Patsy, Al, and Russ, with all three canine companions in her arms.
Love is the strongest force the world possesses. Gandi