John Wesley Mills V, Jack to his family and friends, passed away at his home in Hillsboro, Ore. Sunday, February 23, 2014. Mills was born December 23, 1943 in Portland, Ore. where his father was employed at the ship yards. After the war the family returned to Ashland, Ore. where Jack spent the next 35 years. He attended Ashland High School, lettered in three sports, and graduated in 1962.
After graduating, Mills went to work for Parson Pine Products and married Frances Homes. The couple had three children before divorcing. As presidents of the Ashland High School Alumni Association, Jack and Frances started the tradition of having an annual all-class alumni dinner the last weekend of July.
Mills also served as president of the Ashland Jaycees and was elected to two terms on the Ashland Park Commission. During his tenure on the Commission, he was instrumental in closing the petting zoo in the upper park, relocating the Fourth of July booths from the grassy areas to the street to preserve the beauty of the park, and working with community members to renovate the original park office.
In the early 70s, Mills was accepted into the Oregon Plumbing Apprenticeship Program, became a third generation plumber, and went to work for Mills Plumbing. He started volunteering with the Ashland Old Fashioned Fourth of July Committee as the parade starter in the mid-70s. The parade was a family tradition because Jack's father was born on the Fourth of July, and Mills Plumbing frequently entered a float.
Forced to leave Ashland for economic reasons in 1980, Jack and his wife Barbara relocated to Portland, Ore. to seek better employment opportunities and to be closer to his children. They eventually purchased a home in Hillsboro, Ore. and Jack worked for several suburban plumbing shops until retiring in 2003. He was extremely proud that when his journeyman's plumbing license expired in 2013, one or more members of his family had been licensed in Oregon for 100 years.
Although he no longer lived in Ashland, in his heart it was still home. Even after his parents passed away and his siblings left the area, Jack continued to volunteer with the Fourth of July Committee. Between participating in the parade growing up and volunteering as an adult, Jack spent nearly every Fourth in Ashland. His favorite place to be on that special morning was the intersection by Three Corner Park, entertaining the crowds and directing the participants into place for the trek up Siskiyou Boulevard. When the jets fly over the parade route this summer, his spirit will surely be there.
Jack also served for 23 years in the Oregon National Guard. He was in charge of medical companies in Ashland, then in Portland, and finally in Hillsboro. Having attained the rank of First Sergeant (E8), he retired from the Guard in 1989. He lived a full life and will be missed by many.
He is survived by Barbara, his wife of 40 years; his children, Katrina Pirkle (Beaverton), John Wesley Mills VI (Beaverton), and Anjeannette Jones (Gaston); six grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren; his sister, Donna Lohman of Mechanicsburg, Pa.; and his brother, Richard Mills of Clyde Park, Mont.
Jack's memorial service will be held at 3:00 p.m. Saturday, March 8, 2014 at the First Congregational United Church of Christ, located at 494 East Main in Hillsboro. His ashes will be buried in the Mills family plot at the Pioneer Cemetery in Phoenix, Ore. sometime around the 4th of July. Memorial donations may be sent to the Ashland Chamber of Commerce Foundation, PO
Box 1360, Ashland, Or 97520. Please specify Old-Fashioned 4th of July Celebration.