Meet Legacy Society Member Don Mills
Don Mills has many reasons for supporting The ALS Association. His wife of 42 years, Edna Mills, died of ALS in 2000. Decades earlier, Edna's father and uncle also died of the disease. Today, Don has yet another reason to support ALS: the future health of his three adult children.
"I'm particularly interested in research that's focused on the familial aspect of ALS, because it seems like there's a definite link in our family," said Mills, 79, who recently established a charitable gift annuity for The ALS Association to support ALS research. "My kids might be at risk."
Don and Edna's life together began in 1957, when they met in the then-quiet seaside town of Ventura, Calif. Edna was a legal secretary, and Don had graduated with an architectural engineering degree from California State Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo. They met in the church choir-and were quickly smitten.
They married a year later and settled in Ventura. Don began what would be a 43-year career in civil engineering, designing water supply facilities throughout Southern California. Meanwhile, they started a family, and Edna stayed home to raise their children: Colleen, David and Carol.
"She was energetic, enthusiastic, caring and loving," Mills continued. "She had lots of friends, so she was our social secretary, too!" he added, laughing. Edna also was a committed volunteer. Among other activities, she spent three decades volunteering for the Ventura County Fair, served on the Ventura Parks and Recreation Commission for 12 years, helped update the city's charter, was active in raising funds to renovate the city's pier and was named "Citizen of the Year" by the chamber of commerce.
The first sign of illness appeared in May 1999, when she began having trouble lifting the front of her foot, a condition called "drop foot." A month later, Edna was diagnosed with ALS. Her disease progressed rapidly, but she remained committed to her volunteer work, continuing to serve on the Parks and Recreation Commission and attending the dedication ceremony for the Ventura Pier's new terminus, which was named "Mills' End" in the couple's honor. Just five days after that ceremony, on April 5, 2000, Edna passed away peacefully at home after a 10-month battle with ALS. She was 63.
"I feel fortunate I was able to care for her," said Mills. "We made every day count."
Today, Mills stays busy as a volunteer, using his engineering skills to assist with rehabilitation projects at his church and Channel Islands National Park. He also has three grandsons in college. He and Edna began supporting The ALS Association in the early 1990s, and Don has continued that support. Recently, when a CD matured and his bank offered a minuscule interest rate, he used the funds for a charitable gift annuity, providing him with an attractive payment rate and substantial annual income which is guaranteed for his life.
"The ALS Association is at the forefront of ALS research, and it's so important to support this effort," he explains. "Little by little, the knowledge is growing. That's what gives me hope for the future."