Norman Franklin Mills passed away peacefully, surrounded by love, on Friday, Oct. 17, 2008 at the wonderful age of 94.
He was born in Roche Harbor, Wash., on Feb. 10, 1914 to Irvin and Rebecca (Gribble) Mills.
Norman was one of five children and lived most of his childhood in the San Juan Islands and later moved to Sumas, Wash., where he purchased a farm next to his parents.
Norman wore many hats over the years — farmer, fisherman, boat builder, and marine boat operator for the state parks, to name a few.
He married his love, Caroline Chevalier, on Oct. 23, 1937 in Friday Harbor. They lived in various places in the San Juan Islands, where they had their daughter, Wilma, in 1939.
Besides his family, Norman loved commercial fishing, building boats, wood crafts for the family, sunsets and being a good steward of his farm.
Norman was preceded in death by his parents and his wife, Caroline, after 67 years of marriage.
He is survived by his daughter, Wilma Rimer, of Bellingham, Wash.; grandchildren, Darren and Valerie Still, Brian and Renee Rimer, and Debbie and Mark Kuljis, all of Bellingham, Wash.; 10 great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandaughter.
Norman is also survived by his nephew, Charles Chevalier of Friday Harbor, Wash.; and his niece, Betty Chevalier Nash, of Friday Harbor, Wash.
A graveside service will be held at 1 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 25, 2008 at Valley Cemetery in Friday Harbor, Wash., with a reception to follow at Elements Hotel & Spa, 410 Spring St., Friday Harbor, Wash.
Arrangements are in the care of Evans Funeral Chapel and Crematory, Inc., Anacortes and the San Juan Islands.
To share memories of Norman, please sign the online guest register at www.evanschapel.com.
— Family of Norman Franklin Mills
Mr. Mills and his wife, the former Caroline “Toots” Chevalier, were often sought-after sources for information about island life. In a 1995 National Geographic article, “Living a dream on the islands,” writer Bernard Ohanian theorized that people chose to live on the island because they “have a bit of Norm and Toots Mills in them.”
“Norm and Toots, both in their 80s, were born in the islands, and since 1962 they’ve lived two miles from Canada, on Stuart Island, with no ferry service and no phone lines. About a dozen families live on Stuart year-round; a few others come for weekends, arriving by small plane or, as I did, by private boat,” Ohanian wrote.
“With its television, microwave oven, and other modern conveniences, the Millses’ cedar house could be a middle-class home anywhere in the U. S., except that the view from the front door is a rocky blue-water cove on Haro Strait and the backyard is 37 acres of woods and pasture. Solar panels on the roof provide electricity, with a diesel generator as backup. Norm and Toots stay in touch with neighbors by cellular phone and CB radio, deciding whose turn it is to go to San Juan for supplies, a 20-minute boat trip in benign weather.
“Not that they need much from the store. Their orchard and garden keep them in fruits and vegetables — if Norm and his shotgun can keep out the raiding mink and raccoons — and a reef net provides them with salmon.”