FEDERAL WAY -- Benton County lost a pioneer during the weekend when longtime teacher Wilbert Charles Mills, 89, died in Federal Way.
The Mills family homesteaded for many years in the Hover area across the Columbia River from Sacajawea State Park.
His father, William Mills, was born in Hover in 1888, a year before Washington became a state and long before there was a Benton County.
Wilbert Mills was born July 20, 1922, in Hover, and had five siblings.
He attended school in Hover and Finley before his parents sold the homestead and bought farm land in the Kennewick Highlands area, according to East Benton County Historical Museum records.
He attended college in Nampa, Idaho, before joining the Army where he served in Europe from 1942-46.
Mills earned two Purple Hearts.
He married Ida May Woodruff in June 1946 and returned to college at Eastern Washington University in Cheney.
He graduated with a teaching degree in 1948.
He first taught school in Sunnyside.
After Mills and his young family moved to Kennewick, he farmed with his father and taught history in Kennewick and Pasco before retiring in 1979.
Mills was a lifetime member of the Nazarene Church, serving on the board and teaching Sunday school.
He and his wife raised four children, Linda Mills Landin, Lawrence C. Mills, Rebecca Mills Arnold and Connie Mills Wilkins.
Ida Mills died in 1964, and he moved to the Puyallup area in 1993.
Mills saw many changes in the Tri-Cities during the years including a spike in the post-World War II population.
In 1998 he wrote a letter to the editor published in the Herald: "Twice I sat at a busy intersection at Columbia Center mall for maybe 100 minutes each time. Would you believe, in two separate visits to the mall, I found only one familiar face with each visit?"
Mueller's Tri-Cities Funeral Home, Kennewick, is in charge of his funeral arrangements.
* Loretto J. Hulse: 509-582-1513; firstname.lastname@example.org