FRANCES JEANNE MELIS MILLS (1942 -2016)
The Rev. Frances Jeanne Melis Mills died on February 2, 2016 at the age of 73.
Jeanne was born on October 18, 1942 to Francis Kenneth Melis and Frances Inez Esson Melis. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Bucknell University in 1963, and a Masters of Education from Columbia University in 1965. She served in the then-newly-minted Peace Corps, where she taught English in South America from 1965 to 1967. She went on to receive a Master of Business Administration from Simmons College in 1983, and a Master of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School in 1997.
Rev. Melis Mills was ordained in 1997 at the Second Congregational Society, Unitarian Universalist in Nantucket, MA, and her ordination was the first in 150 years for the congregation. She spent the next thirteen years serving interim ministries; she held pastorates in Nashville, TN; Midland, MI; Tulsa, OK; Chicago, IL; Houston, TX; Huntington, NY; Schenectady, NY; Eugene, OR; and Savannah, GA. She retired from the ministry in 2010.
Jeanne’s life was rich with diverse experiences. During her time in the Peace Corps, she served as an education specialist for Colombia Educational Television, a post that included visiting public schools and helping teachers utilize television programming. After returning to the United States, Jeanne worked for the Western History Center at the University of Utah, on an Indian Oral History Project and taught in two Massachusetts public school districts. She settled in Massachusetts with her family in 1970, and worked with friends to launch the Scituate Environmental Effort S.E.E., an organization with a goal of preserving marshland from development and developing a successful recycling program within Scituate. Later she worked as an archivist at the Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth, MA cataloging and preserving history. After receiving her MBA in 1983, she worked for a time as a financial planner. She received the call to ministry in 1993 and enrolled in divinity school, thus beginning her final career journey.
Upon retiring from the ministry, she searched for a new home and settled at last in a charming cottage in Dorset, VT where she shared her “grandmother cottage” with family and friends. She enjoyed feeding delicious food and fresh baked bread to all, while decorating her home with flowers from her garden. Much energy was injected into the house by the antics of her beloved companions, her Manx cats, Lucy and Max.
Her sister, Darleen, remembers Jeanne dearly as “a woman of great energy and interests who could accomplish much.” Family and friends remember her as an inspiring, caring and free-spirited person. Fellow Peace Corps Volunteer, Stephen Sheppard remembers, “Jeanne was the best of us. Giving, caring, unselfish. Her good, positive, energy became part of us all from the moment she came into our lives so many years ago. We miss her already.”
Jeanne is survived by brothers Richard and wife Marilyn Melis; Gerald and wife Gwendolyn Melis; sisters, Darleen Melis and husband Irving Ingraham, M.D.; and Carole Melis, Esq. She is missed by her two daughters - Nicole Mills and her partner Eric Whittelsey and their son, Henry Benson Mills-Whittelsey; daughter, Sara Mills and their father, Ellsworth Benson “Nick” Mills. Her nieces and nephews include Heather and Brian West and their children Kipp and Hadley; Kay Melis Pannier; Adrianne and Keith Melis, Leah and Alexander Ingraham.
A memorial service will be held at the United Church of Dorset, 143 Church Street, Dorset, VT onMarch 5, 2016 at 11:00AM with a reception following at the church. Jeanne’s ashes will be buried next to her mother in the Esson Family Cemetery in Mt. Angel, Oregon during the family reunion in July.
In lieu of flowers, any donations may be sent to the Natural Resources Defense Council or the Knox County Humane Society in Rockland, Maine.