RSA stalwart will be missed
Cynthia Ann Mills: b Wellington, March 21, 1933; mBill Mills, Wellington 1958; 1s, 1d; d Wellington, August 24, 2014, aged 81.
The old diggers from the Porirua RSA paid their secretary the ultimate compliment when they placed poppies on Ann Mills’ casket at her Cannons Creek funeral service.
Mills was appointed the club’s foundation secretary by the late 28th Maori Battalion officer Bill Herewini, Porirua RSA’s first long-serving president, in 1970.
She served a brief apprenticeship working alongside Herewini in RSA secretarial administration before making the job her own. She held the job for 44 years until her unexpected death.
Outside the church following Mills’ funeral service, a bugler played The Last Post, an honour normally reserved for returned servicemen and women.
Her late husband, Wellington watersider Bill Mills, fought in the Pacific in World War II and was a foundation member of the Porirua RSA.
Current Porirua RSA president Roger Kingsford, recalled how Mills had been so organised that she had already lined up Honorary Colonel Sir Doug Kidd to speak at the branch’s 100th anniversary Anzac Day dawn ceremony service on April 25 next year.
Speaking at Mills’ funeral, Kingsford recalled how Mills had probably been the best secretary the Porirua RSA had ever had. He quickly corrected himself, by saying:
‘‘In fact, she is the only secretary the Porirua RSA has ever had.’’
He noted how the McKillop St RSA had bucked the national trend over the past two decades by attracting younger generations of well-behaved associate members.
Mills’ funeral, attended by about 400 people, was held at the church of Christ the King. It was a fitting venue because the funeral celebrant, the Rev Cath Growcott, noted that Mills was part of the team – comprising members of the Anglican, Presbyterian, Methodist and Pacific Islands Congregational churches – involved in building the church in 1965.
Mills and her family worshipped there when her two children, David and Janifrie, were young.
Mills was a mentor and friend to several politicians, including local Labour MPs Gerry Wall, Graham Kelly, Winnie Laban and Kris Faafoi. She also worked closely with former mayor John Burke and incumbent mayor Nick Leggett.
‘‘Without being able to rely on the good favour and opinion of Ann, I wouldn’t have been able to do what I do,’’ said Leggett.
‘‘Once Ann had your back, you were protected for life.’’
Mills worked closely with several organisations in Porirua, including St Anne’s Anglican Church, the Porirua City Bowling Club, the Garden Club and Russell School, where she was also the school secretary for decades.
She became a Justice of the Peace in 1989, received a NZ Order of Merit award in 2001 and in 2012 Porirua City awarded her a civic award.
As her lifelong friend, former Porirua City councillor Maxine Arnold, said this week: ‘‘Ann was a product of her time who managed to fit in and make a huge contribution to the world of today.’’
Mills and her husband moved to Porirua in 1960. For 55 years she lived in Porirua East.
Loyal servant: Ann Mills was secretary of the Porirua RSA for