An avid golfer and Harley enthusiast: Norman Mills was one of the most genuine, hardworking, and trustworthy people you will ever meet. He was also outgoing and fun loving with a witty sense of humor, and made a lasting impression on anyone he would meet. However, what truly defined Norm Mills was his unfaltering work ethic, reliability, and most importantly: his love for family and friends. He was a devoted husband, father, grandfather, friend, coworker and bus driver. Norm gave his all to everyone who was important to him and everything he accomplished in life. Norm will be deeply missed by everyone who knew him.
1940’s marked the beginning of the baby boomer era. In the later 40’s: prefab homes were being built in the US to solve the growing need of family housing. On September 7th of 1948, Norman Charles (Chrysler employee) and Ruth Ella (Orr) Mills (WF WELLS employee) welcomed home their 2nd child (preceded by Marjorie) and firstborn son: Norman Charles Mills II. The couple would soon grow their family to five, adding in his brother Michael, and Sisters Ruth and Deb.
Norm’s parents were significant role models in his life. He always had a strong work ethic, which he inherited from them. Norm’s mom owned her own business (REO-REM ceramics) and his dad was a Union Steward at Chrysler (later to be reflected by Norm’s role as a Union steward at Pepsi). Sadly, Norm’s dad passed away (from injuries related to a car accident) when he was only 9 years old. This made him feel that he should become the man of the house. He acquired the role of protector, and would look out for his brother and sisters. Not long after his dad’s death; they relocated to Three Rivers to be closer to his mother’s family. As soon as he was able; he got a job to help the family financially.
Norm attended the Immaculate Conception Catholic School through eighth grade. He graduated from Three Rivers High school in 1966. From 1968 to 1974 Norm proudly served his country in the United States Army Reserves. He credited these years for his strong discipline, attention to detail and appearance, and his dependability. Upon leaving the reserves his rank was Private E2 (PVT E-2) from the Adjutant General Corps branch (AGC).
Being in the reserves allowed him to live in normal society and work. In 1967 he got his career defining position as a route salesman at Coca-Cola. On June 9th of 1969 he started working for Pepsi-Cola and would retire from there 30 years later. From 1967 to 1999 (32 years) Norm NEVER missed a day of work and always picked up any extra days when he could. He delivered Pepsi to the B93 Birthday bash and many festivals in downtown Kalamazoo. This was one of the many accolades he received for which he received credit. He also won many cruises, tickets and awards for complex displays he built, and was salesman of the year three years in a row. He was always a strong provider who worked hard every day to provide for his family.
In 1978, Norm met the love of his life, Deborah (Miller) Mills. She was working at the Light factory in Kalamazoo (which was down the road from the Pepsi Plant) as a bartender. Pepsi employees would meet up there after work and the two of them would banter their sarcastic humor to each other. One day, Norm brought Deb an entire bag of gum and won her heart. She would always respond to passes with “I don’t date” but with Norm it was different. He had a job, a Harley Davidson AND he got her sense of humor. So she agreed to go on a date with him, but only as “friends”. In 1979, almost exactly one year later, Norm proposed to her while they were on vacation at Mackinac Island. On March 8th of 1980 they were married at St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church despite the snowstorm the night before. 2021 marked their 41st wedding anniversary.
In 1971 Norm became a father for the first time. Kurt was everything a dad could ask for and more. They loved to build snowmen and go on trips together to Niagara falls. In 1981 He and Deb welcomed in the new addition to the family, Jennifer Mills. Family life was wonderful and you couldn’t ask for a better dad. However, one of the hardest times in Norm’s life was in 1986 when his son, Kurt Russell suddenly passed away as the result of a car accident the day after Christmas. Losing a child is one of the hardest things that a person can experience, and he was steadfast through it all. Being everyone's pillar. In 1998 he was reunited with his Daughter Rachel from Florida. At the time, Rachel was pregnant with his first grandchild KeAndre.
Norm loved his role as a grandfather and was excited when his grandchildren, KeAndre and Shailynn arrived. On the day Shailynn was born he rushed down the hospital hallways to make sure he was the first one to hold her. Mr. big bad biker would turn into quite the softie with his granddaughter in his arms! As she got older, he loved teaching her golf and taking her on bus trips with him. He was very proud and would show pictures of her to everyone. Whenever KeAndre would visit, Norm would take pride in making them special breakfasts and taking them to the movies. KeAndre always thought he was the funniest man alive whenever he would mock someone or be his usual dry humored self. KeAndre always looked forward to Easter which he spent at Papa and Nana’s.
As a father and a family man, he instilled core values of honesty, dependability, and respect. He also modeled that family comes first no matter what. The entire extended Mills family would get together for dinner every Thanksgiving and Christmas at his mom’s house. One year they counted 32 people at Christmas! No matter if it was a wedding shower, graduation, or birthday party, Norm’s entire family would be there to support each other.
Because he worked for 30 years at Pepsi, when he retired in 1999 he found himself bored. “You can only play so much golf!” he once said to his daughter. So he applied for and accepted a position as a bus driver. He loved working at the Vicksburg Schools Transportation Department and took pride in the kids he drove. He loved making them treat bags if they were younger and talking to the older kids and would often come home with stories from them.
Norm was well known and loved by many people. Everywhere he went (from the grocery store to Walt Disney World in Florida) you could hear “NORM” being called out from across the way. He had so many lifelong friends that the saying “lucky to count your friends on one hand” was surpassed tenfold. People know him from being on the golf course or working at one, they worked with him at Pepsi, or went to high school with him. No matter how you knew Norm, guaranteed he left a lasting impression on you. He has lived a long fulfilling life with many accomplishments. He has made his mark in the world and in our hearts.
Sadly, he has left this world too soon. Deeply loved by his family and friends, Norman Charles Mills II will never be forgotten. His witty sense of humor and his kind loving ways will be etched on the hearts of his friends and loved ones for years to come. May his family never doubt the special love he held for each and every one of them and may his memories be eternal.
Norman Charles Mills II, age 72, of Scotts, Michigan, died Sunday, July 18, 2021, as the result of a motorcycle accident. He is survived by his loving wife of forty-one years, Deborah Mills; daughters: Jennifer Mills and Rachel Mitchell; grandchildren: Shailynn Jackson and KeAndre Berry; sisters: Ruth (Douglas) Burson and Deborah (Bruce) Harley. He was preceded in death by his son, Kurtis Russell; brother, Michael Mills; sister, Margorie Beard; and his parents.
In accordance with Norman's wishes a public visitation will be held on Tuesday, July 27, 2021 from 4:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. at McCowen & Secord Family Funeral Homes Rupert-Durham Chapel, 409 S. Main Street, Vicksburg, MI 49097. A Funeral Mass will be held on Wednesday, July 28, 2021 with a time for visiting from 10:00 a.m. until the time of mass at 11:00 a.m. at St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church, 5855 East W Avenue, Vicksburg, MI 49097, with Monsignor Martin officiating. Norman will be laid to rest at Gilson Cemetery immediately following the service. In lieu of flowers donations can be made to Deb Mills for assistance with funeral services.
While visiting Norman's tribute page please take a moment to light a candle or share a memory with the family. The Mills family is being assisted by McCowen & Secord Family Funeral Homes Rupert-Durham Chapel, 409 S. Main Street, Vicksburg, MI 49097. 269-649-1697.