Joseph Mills, 88, of New Bedford died peacefully at his daughter Jane Burchill’s home in West Tisbury on Wednesday, December 11, surrounded by his family and loved ones. He was the beloved husband of the late Theresa B. (Whalen) Mills, to whom he was married for 53 years.
Born in New Bedford, the son of the late George F. and Catherine (Ford) Mills, he was predeceased by his brother, George Mills, and his sisters, Catherine, Mary, and Edna Mills. A lifelong resident of the city, Mr. Mills attended Grove City College, Penn., and earned a BS degree in Business Administration from SMU (now UMASS Dartmouth) and a Fire Science Technology degree from Bristol Community College. A dedicated firefighter for 24 years, he served as a Lieutenant on the New Bedford Fire Department before retiring in 1980.
Joe proudly served his country during World War II, serving in the US Army 75th Infantry Division, 289th Infantry Regiment, Company M. Nicknamed the “Diaper Division,” it was the youngest unit to enter active battle and was known as the “Bulge Busters” for its distinguished combat record in the Battle of the Bulge. His bravery earned him many honors including a Bronze Star medal, two Purple Hearts, the Good Conduct medal, the American Theater Campaign Ribbon and European African Middle Eastern Theater Campaign Ribbon, and the Victory medal.
A devoted and loving husband, father, grandfather, and great grandfather, he cherished spending time with his family. Always ready and first in line to help anyone, Joe was incredibly talented and possessed an uncanny ability to build or fix anything. Joe enjoyed sports, especially basketball and baseball, and devoted many years to coaching his children, grandchildren, and city youth. He founded the North End Youth Athletic League, coached St. Mary’s CYO and was an avid tennis and hockey player.
Survivors include two sons, Dr. Joseph Mills and his wife, Kathleen, of South Dartmouth and Dr. Steven Mills of Vineyard Haven; three daughters, Joanne Caplan of South Dartmouth, Jane Burchill and her husband, Attorney Kevin Burchill of West Tisbury, and Mary Mills of Oak Bluffs; ten grandchildren, including Kevin and Joseph Burchill of West Tisbury, three great grandchildren, several nieces and nephews, and many friends. He was revered by his son-in-law, Dr. William Caplan, who cared for him throughout his lifetime. Joe received exemplary care from Hope Hospice, and their hospice care providers on the Island. In lieu of flowers, please consider donations as a tribute to Joe’s life to: Hope Hospice, P.O. Box 4188, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568
The celebration of Joe’s life will be held at the Rock Funeral Home, 1285 Ashley Blvd., New Bedford. Visiting hours will be held Sunday, December 22, 3–5 pm. The funeral procession will begin Monday, December 23, at 7:30 am at Rock Funeral Home; followed by a Mass of Christian Burial at 9 am at St. Mary’s Church, 783 Dartmouth Street, South Dartmouth, MA.