Mary Ann (Protheroe) Mills died on November 3, 2023 in Spring Valley, California following a period of declining health. At the time of her passing Mary was 87 years old.
Mary was born in Menasha, Wisconsin on March 6, 1936 to Gordon S. and Mildred L. Protheroe. She was raised in a hard working family with 5 brothers and 2 sisters, and was a 1954 graduate of Menasha High School. At the age of 12, Mary accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior while attending Vacation Bible School. Mary attended Whiting Memorial Baptist Church in Neenah, Wisconsin where she met her future husband, Alfred Henry Mills.
Mary and Al were married on February 4, 1956 shortly after Al’s graduation from the University of Wisconsin under the NROTC program. It was 15 degrees below zero on the day of the wedding, but the church was packed for the ceremony. Three days later the newlyweds left Wisconsin in their 1950 Pontiac for a 2,000+ mile drive – mostly on Route 66 – to San Diego, California where Al would be stationed in the US Navy for the next 3 years.
Two years after she was married Mary was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes mellitus. Insulin had been discovered just 15 years before Mary was born, and prior to its availability a diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes was a death sentence. With insulin, long term survival was possible, but the road ahead would not always be easy. Strict dietary control and daily insulin injections were required. In the late 1950s the treatment of diabetes was limited in comparison to today’s standards. Mary’s reusable glass syringes had to be boiled on a stovetop to sterilize them after each use, and blood sugar could only be crudely estimated using urine dipsticks. Then, as now, living successfully with diabetes required discipline, intelligence, and adaptability. Mary learned everything she could about her disease, stayed abreast of new developments in diabetes, and in recent years adopted the latest diabetic monitoring and treatment technology. Mary’s encounter with diabetes beginning at age 21 both shaped and revealed her character. That she lived with the disease for over 65 years is a tribute to her mettle.
After Al’s discharge from the Navy, he and Mary remained in the San Diego area, where their children – David, Kathryn, and Paula – were born and raised. Mary was the quintessential mom. After helping her children learn to read, she tirelessly chauffeured them to school, swimming lessons, music lessons, Little League practice, and science fairs. When she became a grandmother she continued her nurturing role, often traveling across the country to do so. Recent years brought the opportunity to serve as a doting great grandmother, as well.
Mary and Al became members of Scott Memorial Baptist Church in 1956, and subsequently were members of Shadow Mountain Community Church with the move of the church to El Cajon. The church community served as the foundation for some of their dearest and most enduring friendships. In 2009, Mary and Al became residents of Covenant Living at Mount Miguel where they were blessed with numerous new friends. Hospitality was a priority for Mary. She loved to entertain and was both a gracious hostess and expert cook. Mary had a gift for making people feel welcomed in her home.
Activities outside the home included singing in the choir at church, serving as a greeter at church along with Al, and volunteering at the rescue mission. Over the decades Mary and Al made dozens of cross-country road trips to visit relatives and take their children to national parks and historic sites. Overseas travel included trips to Europe, Australia, New Zealand, China, and numerous cruises.
Mary was preceded in death by her husband of 65 years, Alfred Mills. She is survived by her son David Mills and his wife Nan; daughter Kathryn Hunt and her husband Walter; daughter Paula Prohaska and her husband Gary; grandchildren Travis, Brianna, Kai, Lainey, and Kylie; and great-grandsons Harrison and Sterling.
Friends and family are invited to a brief graveside memorial service to be held at 11:15 am on Tuesday November 28, 2023 at Miramar National Cemetery. In lieu of flowers please consider a donation in Mary’s memory to Wycliffe Bible Translators.