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Lewis Henry "Buzz" Mills

Lewis Henry "Buzz" Mills served his country on the battlefield and his community behind a barber chair

Lewis Henry "Buzz" Mills served his country on the battlefield and his community behind a barber chair

October 26, 2008|By HEATHER KEELS

Longtime Indian Springs barber says he's retiring

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail publishes "A Life Remembered." This continuing series takes a look back -- through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others -- at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Lewis Henry "Buzz" Mills, who died Oct. 18 at the age of 81. His obituary was published in the Oct. 20 edition of The Herald-Mail. He also was featured in a story that ran in the Sept. 2 edition of The Herald-Mail called "Getting Buzz'ed."

A green Army jacket. Mounted antlers. Family photo albums. A framed barber's license, scissors and a folded blue smock.

These items, arranged on a table at the back of a Clear Spring funeral home on Tuesday, told the life story that Lewis "Buzz" Mills had been sharing with his customers for 53 years.

"That was him," said his daughter, Nancy Melton. "He was a hunter, he was a soldier and he was a terrific husband."

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Mills, who had cut hair in a small shop next to the Indian Springs General Store since the 1960s, had announced he would retire in October, but his customers were skeptical. Interviewed in late August for a story on Mills' barbering career, one friend joked, "They'll carry him out feet first."

Sure enough, Mills cut hair on his normal days until Oct. 18, when he went to the hospital, said his granddaughter, Miranda Daniel. He died later that day at the age of 81.

Mills, who was one of 12 children, grew up hunting and working on a farm to support his family, said The Rev. Jonathan Laye, a friend and relative who knew Mills when he was a young man.

"He had to learn to work at an early age," Laye said. "He went to eight grades of school. That was an accomplishment for that era."

Mills was working in timber when he fell in love with the sister of some of his fellow loggers, Frances Louise Henson. The story goes that Frances used to climb a tree and holler across a valley to Mills. They were married in 1946.

After that, Mills enlisted in the Army. He served in World War II, came home, studied barbering under a vocational subsidy for veterans, then returned to the Army to serve as a tank commander in the Korean War. He went on to work at Fairchild Aircraft for 39 years. But it was through his side job, the barbershop, that many in the Indian Springs area knew him best.

"It was a community gathering place," Laye said. "People would go there, even if they weren't getting a haircut, to sit and talk."

And boy, could Mills talk.

"He was a great storyteller," Laye said. "He could sit there and tell you stories for hours."

Longtime friend and customer Neal "Dee" Gladhill, 74, of Big Pool, said he will miss exchanging stories with Mills about hunting deer and turkeys.

"If he had a story to tell, he'd tell his, I'd try to top that one," Gladhill said.

Ron Amos, 69, of Clear Spring, said his favorites were Mills' stories about all-night coon hunts with his brother, Ken.

"He was a man's man," Amos said. "He was a tank commander in the Korean War, a boxer ... and he knew more about the history around here and had all these magnificent stories."

Later in life, Mills also put his storytelling abilities to use as a preacher and Sunday school teacher in churches throughout the area, Laye said.

Mills' son, Lou Mills, 61, of Big Pool, said he thought his father had kept the barbershop open for so long because he liked being around people.

"That's what he liked in life," Lou Mills said. "He was just a plain, simple man, and everyone liked to be around him."

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