Long-time St. Mary’s Rector Dies

Fr. John Mills on Veterans Day 2009 (Photo by A.D. Merante)

Fr. John G. Mills 

By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong

Father John G. Mills, rector of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Cold Spring for three decades, died on Tuesday morning (May 15) in Hudson Valley Hospital Center after being in failing health for several years. Mills, 92, served at St. Mary’s for three decades before retiring in 1992.

He arrived in Cold Spring on July 29, 1961, to confront a disaster: The church smoldered from a devastating fire, set by youngsters two days earlier that had destroyed the historic roof, ruined the interior plasterwork around the altar, wrecked the organ, charred beams and woodwork, and cast black soot over everything. The two or three youths responsible were believed to have similarly attacked Our Lady of Loretto Roman Catholic Church in Cold Spring a week earlier, though that fire was put out before damage occurred. Mills immediately set to work repairing St. Mary’s. “Those grotesque embers or remaining bits of flame greeting Fr. John appeared not as a defeat but a challenge to marshal the courage to change that which seemed unchangeable,” Donald MacDonald, a long-time parishioner and local historian wrote in the parish newsletter in 2003. “The will to do so was exactly what Fr. John brought with him.” And, of course, St. Mary’s rebuilt and continued to thrive.

Born and raised in Canada, Mills later moved to the United States and served in the Pacific in World War II before taking up his duties as a priest. Along with his clerical role at St. Mary’s, he sometimes played the church organ and helped out in other capacities and was active in the Cold Spring Fire Company No. 1. Last December, his fellow firefighters presented him with a plaque recognizing his 50 years with the company. After his retirement, he and Margaret Mills remained in Cold Spring and in his later years he attended services at Our Lady of Loretto.

Funeral home calling hours, at Clinton, Inc., in Cold Spring, were set for 7 to 9 p.m. on Thursday (May 17), and from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. on Friday. A funeral Mass has been scheduled for Saturday, at Our Lady of Loretto at 10 a.m., with burial in the Cold Spring Cemetery.


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8 thoughts on “Long-time St. Mary’s Rector Dies

  1. My heart goes out to Mrs. Mills: I will never forget Father Mills or his great and sincere kindness to my family on so many occasions. Our whole community will mourn his loss.

  2. Fr. Mills was one of a kind and my thoughts and prayers go out to Mrs. Mills and to both John and Charles. I knew Fr. Mills as a wonderful and cheerful man and Cold Spring lost a true treasure. God Bless you Fr. Mills and as a beautiful prayer goes:

    Remember thy servant, O Lord, according to the favor which thou bearest unto thy people; and grant that, increasing in knowledge and love of thee, he may go from strength to strength in the life of perfect service in thy heavenly kingdom; through Jesus Christ out Lord. Amen.

  3. Father John Mills was a blessing and inspiration to all those in recovery who came to depend on his loving acceptance and peaceful direction. With Margaret by his side, John was an irreplaceable force for good in many people’s lives. Gof rest his soul.

  4. To My Aunt Margaret, Johnny and Charles,

    I am so sorry for your loss, Our prayers go out to you from Montana.

    Now Jack is with his sister Jean, and they are both watching over all of us.

    Jack was a great person, did so much for everyone he met. he will be missed terribly.

  5. Thinking of you all, we send our deepest sympathy. What a difficult time, you all are in our thoughts and prayers. What a wonderful man he was, so thoughtful and will be missed alot by many. May you rest in peace Uncle Jack. Sending our Love from Kansas.

  6. Father Mills was a kind and inspirational man. He taught me while I was a student at Ladycliff College. He encouraged intellectual curiosity and nurtured spiritual devotion. He gave of himself to many students, faculty and parishoners. I’m sure he has a home in Heaven.

  7. Rev. Mills was a most trusted colleague at Ladycliff College, as well as a cherished spiritual advisor and dear friend for over 40 years. He touched all who knew him, and he will be sorely missed. May Mrs. Mills soon find the peace that he has surely found.

  8. A facet of his life, endearing to many of us, are the years he dedicated to LadyCliff College in Highland Falls, NY. I have a “memory picture” of him as my Professor of Religion and French courses. Father Mills was kind hearted, always encouraging, inspiring and full of amusing anecdotes. In recent years, I had the pleasure of speaking with him and thanked him for being a mentor in my life. He sang a song in French as we reminisced on the college days of decades past. Although he will be missed, his footprints have not disappeared, they are alive in us…