Hermon and Leona Mills were both proud to be life-long West Virginians. Hermon was born in Wirt County in 1924, the only child of J.T. and Minnie Mills. He grew up on the family farm near Brohard. Leona, born in 1932, was the oldest daughter of K.W. and Dessie Fox. Leona and her four sisters were raised near McFarlan in Ritchie County. Although Hermon and Leona lived in different counties, they didn't live very far apart. They both grew up in the Strait Creek Baptist Church. Church was always a big part of their lives.
Hermon and Leona, like many couples, had opposite personalities. Hermon was quiet and shy while Leona loved to talk to everybody about everything. She never met a stranger. Hermon was a homebody, but Leona loved to be on the go. However, they supported one another with unwavering devotion.
After high school, Hermon served in the Army while he was waiting for Leona to grow up. Meanwhile, she enjoyed high school where she was a good student, active in the public speaking program. Leona was always proud that she won the WV Golden Horseshoe Award in eighth grade.
After graduation, Leona moved to Fairmont to live with an aunt and uncle and attend Fairmont State College. Interestingly enough, Hermon also moved to Fairmont about the same time. He worked at the Westinghouse plant there. Leona's college career was cut short when they married on December 31, 1950. The couple continued to live in Fairmont until shortly before the birth of their oldest daughter, Joyce Diana in 1952. After they relocated to the Parkersburg area, Hermon began working at the Johns-Manville factory in Vienna. He spent the rest of his working days there, always working a swing shift schedule. Hermon retired in 1985. He passed away on November 8, 2004, from complications of a broken hip.
Hermon and Leona had three more children: Kathy Lynn born in 1955; Thomas Kelmer born in 1957; and David Brent born in 1962.
Since Hermon worked various shifts, it was up to Leona to be the constant in the lives of the children. She was a full-time homemaker until 1968 when she started working part-time at Beechwood School. Leona went on to have a 20-year career with the Wood County School system, retiring in 1989. Her most rewarding position was that of music teacher at Martin School, when it was a school for special needs students. Martin School's choir sang at the Lighting of the National Christmas Tree in Washington, DC, during Leona's tenure there. It was one of her proudest achievements.
Hermon and Leona were 50-year members of the Vienna Baptist Church where Hermon served as an usher and a deacon. Leona served on virtually all of the boards and committees at one time or the other, although most of her energy went into Christian education. Leona also served at the state and national level of the American Baptist Convention. She told Children's Stories at church for many years. In her last years, Leona directed a choir for folks over the age of 60," The Young at Heart Choir." She often said it was one of her greatest joys.
Hermon and Leona sent their children to the Baptist Camp in Cowen, WV, as soon as they were old enough to attend, but it was 1970 before they attended Family Camp with them. Hermon and Leona both loved Camp Cowen and returned year after year. Leona directed a Junior Camp for many years. Later she and Hermon attended Junior Camp as the "Camp Grandparents." They both agreed that it was easy to see the hand of God in the beauty of the outdoors. In her last summer Leona was very ill, but she wanted to return to Camp Cowen one last time. She wanted to tell just one more children's story. Shortly before that last trip to Cowen, Leona established this Campership Fund. It was her fervent hope that young people would continue to hear the "Good News" at camp.
Leona died on October 17, 2007, after a valiant nine-month battle with Pancreatic Cancer.
No story of Hermon and Leona Mills would be complete without some bragging about their children and grandchildren. Hermon and Leona were very humble folks, but they were very proud that all of their children were college graduates.
Joyce graduated from Marshall University and is a middle school English teacher. She lives in Deltaville, VA, with her husband John Schnoering and their Scottish Terrier, Gilligan.
Kathy graduated from Salem College and worked as an X-ray Technician before marrying William A. (Bill) Freeland in 1989. They adopted their children Kevin and Katlyn in1992. Kathy and the children live in Winchester, VA. Bill Freeland died in 2000.
Tom graduated from Glenville State College and completed a Master's Degree at Johns Hopkins University. He owns a pizza shop in Baltimore, MD, where he lives with his wife Tammy. Tom has three sons: John, Brent and Ross. John is a heavy equipment operator. He lives in Winchester, VA, with his wife, Rebecca. Brent graduated from Embry Riddle University and works at Aberdeen Proving Ground as an aeronautical engineer. He lives in Baltimore, MD. Ross is also a heavy equipment operator and lives in Winchester, VA.
David graduated from West Virginia University and works as an engineer for Ace Insurance Company. He lives in Pittsburgh, PA, with his wife Carole and their two daughters, Britton and Katherine.
Written February 5, 2008