Howard "Gig" Mills
Last updated 10/4/2023 at 11:34am
Howard Andrew Mills passed away on September 26, 2023, in Grand Coulee, Washington. He was born on July 6, 1939, in Almira, Washington to Donald E. Mills and Rachel (Pierce) Mills. He had two older siblings: sister Julia (Mills) Munson, and Davis Mills. He had one younger brother, Norman who died of pneumonia at the age of 6 months in 1947.
Howard grew up on a ranch just outside of Grand Coulee feeding chickens, goats, cows, picking and selling berries. Putting up miles of fence lines with his brother Davis, a lot of those fences are still there to this day. His mother Rachel, a WSU graduate, was his teacher at the Plum school about 2 miles east of their ranch. He then attended 3rd through 6th grades in Almira, and finished his schooling in Grand Coulee, graduating in 1957 as a "Tiger".
He joined the U.S. Coast Guard the day after graduation and was stationed in San Francisco, California where he married Patrcia Roe (also from Grand Coulee) and his daughter Jaylene was born in 1958; son Dale in 1960, and Jolena in 1961. His brother Davis had enlisted in the Navy and was in the same area.
Howard returned to Grand Coulee in 1961 with his wife and three children. He worked a lot of odds and end jobs: selling firewood, alcohol at different events and potatoes, along with working at the sawmill that was located above the Grand Coulee Dam. His daughter Carleta was born in 1962 in Coulee Dam.
While in service his father, Don Mills, had sold the ranch to the Rosenberg family in 1959; their family owns that property to this date. His parents moved out to the Desautel Pass area until 1965, then back to the old homestead in Northrup Canyon from Spring to Fall, then to Delano for the winters. He was a hard worker, and brought his children up the same way, teaching them the value of commitment and hard work.
His daughter Jaylene suffered 3rd degree burns that created multiple hospital bills. He refused to go on to a welfare program, but the city gave him an opportunity to earn money to pay those bills by putting in power line poles. He was one of the few that continued to show up each day because it was winter, frozen ground, and extremely hard work but he did not give up and that opened the door for him to be hired as a full-time employee with the City of Grand Coulee. He then went on to work with Grant County PUD when they came to town as a lineman, providing him with a huge pay raise and retirement plan.
During this time working and raising his 4 children, Gig enjoyed racing the old "Daffy Duck" car at the old Soap Lake oval. He also enjoyed working as a voluntary fireman and was on the Grand Coulee city council. He loved hunting, fishing and helping people in the community. He used to help the old local cowboys in town by breaking their horses, one of George Kohout's horses resulted in a broken nose that never straightened out.
Gig was known to help a lot of people around town with repairing/replacing their roofs, doing concrete work, and working on cars whenever needed. He believed in helping others more than himself and didn't believe in being "paid back". Of course, he was also known to have fun at some of the local bars around town socializing and just enjoying life with friends.
In 1970 another daughter was born, Kaerece, followed by Joyelle in 1971.
In 1972 his father Don passed away from cancer and he then began a regular "to do list" ensuring that his mother was taken care of. In 1974 another daughter, Darna, was born.
In 1975 Howard and Patricia filed for divorce after a long separation. In spring of 1975 his first grandchild was born. And, in late 1975 he married Doris Goetz, who had 5 children: Marilyn, Rick, Kim, Dan and Ellen. He now had 12 children and one grandchild!
Howard and Doris made a great team as they began to enjoy their life together. They walked through a lot of hardships, the first being the loss of Doris' son Kim soon after they were married. She was his best friend and her love and respect for him changed his life drastically. Together they tackled everything together from raising a family to building on the home he bought in 1962 complete with a huge shop. He retired at a young age of 50 years old in 1990 and then began enjoying getaways to Reno, and other road trips. It never had to be anything big for them, they simply enjoyed being together.
With ailing mothers both Doris and Howard needed to spend a lot of time taking them to doctor appointments and helping with their 2 houses. Their mothers both passed away in the early 1990s.
To subsidize Howard and Doris medical insurance costs they decided to purchase the old Umbrella apartment building behind their house. They basically kicked everyone out and started renovating them and renamed them "The Dirty Shame Apartments," which got quite a few chuckles from everyone around town and tourists as well. The name came from one of their favorite bars they would visit in Yaak, Montana with the same name. Once they were renovated, he could rent them out at a higher rate to teachers, attorneys, etc. in the area. After a couple of years of the remodeling, and not being quite finished he sold them to Wayne Fowler.
In November 2011 he lost his best friend and partner in crime "Doris" to cancer and missed her every day till the day he died. She truly was his great love.
Several years later, he was able to purchase his "dream", a 1939 Chevrolet pick-up truck that he entered in multiple car shows, drove in parades, and provided for events around town. He never missed the Colorama Rodeo, although he told his kids every year for the last 5 or 6 years that "this is my last rodeo". He enjoyed visits with his kids and grandkids and just sharing a string of stories about the history of this area along with good time adventures with his buddies.
Gig touched a lot of lives in the local communities: Davenport, Creston, Wilbur, Almira, Hartline, Grand Coulee, Electric City, Coulee Dam, Nespelem, Coulee City, Soap Lake, Ephrata and Mansfield to name a few – he was always willing to lend a helping hand.
His last words were "I had a good run." He was right, he did, and he will be greatly missed.
He is survived by his children: Jaylene (Mike) English; Dale (Lori) Mills, Jolena Mills, Carleta (Dave) Alexander, Kaerece (Frank) Purbeck, Joyelle Mills, Darna Mills; Marilyn Powell, Dan Goetz, Ellen Minkes, many grandchildren and great grandchildren.
At his request there will not be a funeral service.