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Ann M. Mills, 90, longtime volunteer, St. Benedict teacher

June 19, 1928 — Oct. 20, 2018

Ann Moira (Henry) Mills spent most of her 90 years involved in community, cultural and civic work, starting with rolling bandages for the Red Cross during World War II.

Given her background, her dedication to civic and cultural activities comes as no surprise.

Her father, John W. Henry, a past chairman of the Erie County Democratic Party and onetime sheriff, was immersed in community causes. Called "the grand old man of Erie County politics" in his later years, some 300 people gathered to celebrate his 90th birthday in 1968.

Her mother, Mae Hassett Henry, was also active in politics and civic affairs and in 1933 became the first woman to run for Amherst Town Council.

In 1943, her older sister, Mary Patricia Henry, became the first Buffalo area woman to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps; her brother, John Robert, was an aviation cadet in the Army Air Forces at the time.

Mrs. Mills, who lived all but the last months of her life in Eggertsville, died Oct. 20 in Mercy Hospital after a brief illness. She had been living in Elderwood at Hamburg.

"She felt it was important to be involved in the community," said Ed Mills, one of her five children.

Born Ann Moira Henry, she was the third child of John W. Henry, a bicycle merchant who later ran a company that sold furniture to churches and schools, and Mae (Hassett) Henry. The family lived on Lebrun Road for decades.

As county Democratic chairman, John W. Henry was a contemporary and associate of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was governor of New York from 1929 until 1932, when he was elected president. "Buffalo had some political clout in those days," said Ed Mills.

Mrs. Mills graduated from Eggert Road Elementary School and from Amherst High School in 1945. She spent a year at Marygrove College in Detroit, then graduated from D'Youville College in 1949 with a degree in English. She taught third grade at Buffalo Public School 56 from 1950 to 1954.

She met Robert I. Mills, an accountant at the Ford Stamping Plant in Woodlawn, at a Canadian cottage sorority get-together. On June 26, 1954, they married in St. Benedict Church.

They raised one daughter and four sons in a house on North Drive in Eggertsville. Like her mother, who often opened her gardens to charitable fundraisers and group tours, Mrs. Mills loved to garden. She particularly cherished a pink rose bush, shown in the foreground of her photo, which she rooted from a cutting from a bush at her family's Lebrun Road home. A cutting from her rose bush is now growing at her son Jim's home.

When her children were young, Mrs. Mills dedicated herself to their care. A skilled seamstress, she made clothing for herself and her family, including dresses for her daughter and matching tailored blazers for her husband and sons.

In their home, "Grammar was big, reading was big, education was very important, because nobody can ever take that away from you," said Ed Mills. "She also encouraged us to be involved in things and to always keep busy."

When her children became older, Mrs. Mills began to return to her volunteer work. Through the years, besides the Red Cross, she was a volunteer for the Girl Scouts, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Shea's, MusicalFare Theatre, Amherst Museum and the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site.

Mrs. Mills was also a member of the St. Benedict Rosary Altar Society, Ladies of Charity, Daughters of Erin and the Heritage Village Lace Guild.

Starting in 1975, Mrs. Mills volunteered as a reading tutor in St. Benedict School. After her husband died in 1979, the third-grade teaching position became open and she returned to teach full-time until 1985. "It kept her busy, and she still had two kids in college and one in high school," said her son.

Her family said that Mrs. Mills "enjoyed reading, Bible study, needlework, flowers, birds and dessert," particularly chocolate.

Besides her son Ed, she is survived by a daughter, Mary Ann; three other sons, Robert Jr., John and Jim; and 12 grandchildren.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 10:30 a.m. Saturday in St. Benedict Catholic Church, 1317 Eggert Road, Amherst.

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