James R.”J.R.” Mills, 86, of Cleveland, TN, died on Saturday, July 28, 2012 at a local hospital.
After moving to Cleveland at the age of 4, he had been a lifelong resident of Cleveland. In fact, until he went to war in Germany at age 18 in 1944, he had only been out of Bradley County once, to make one trip to Athens. He attended several elementary schools in the county system.
He was preceded in death by his parents, William Frank and Ida Hinkle Mills; a brother, Bill (wife Louise); and two sisters, Inez Farmer (John) and Pauline Howard (Robert).
He was retired from Charleston Hosiery Mills, where he worked as a machine fixer for 40 years. He and his wife also owned a flea market, “Forest Fleas” for eleven years. He was also well known in Cleveland for his athletic accomplishments, as he was inducted into the Bradley County Sports Hall of Fame in 1995 for baseball.
After serving in WWII then remaining in Germany during the initial occupation, he was honorably discharged with many medals, including marksmanship, in August of 1947. He was a humble man who would never have bragged about his medals or his athletic feats. Be that as it may, his athletic abilities were quickly recognized in Europe, so he pitched fast pitch softball. He earned the nickname “Iron Man” because he often pitched both ends of double headers on the army team and traveled to numerous countries to play.
After the war, he attended the National School of Business in Cleveland, and then he played a key part in the organizing of the Hiwassee Baseball League. Throughout his life he was proud of all his players, two in particular, who signed professional contracts, Odell Swafford and Louis Massengill. He was even prouder of his wife and children. He and Louise spent most of the first 30 years of their marriage following their children to a ball park. He often said “he loved watching them play, even though this contributed greatly to his ulcers.”
He was also an avid bowler for many years, winning several awards in league play. He attended the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses, studying with, and forming lifelong bonds with many of those members, for over 40 years.
To cherish his memory, he leaves his wife of 58 years, Louise Crumbley Mills; son, Dr. Keith Mills (wife Ronna); daughter, Karen Mills; special family friend, Christi Homar; several cousins, nieces and nephews; many friends, some more than 70 years; and numerous family and neighborhood animals that adored him, especially Prissy.
The Remembrance of Life Service will be Monday, July 30 at 7 p.m. at Jim Rush Funeral Home, North Chapel with Brother William Wright and Dr. Keith Mills officiating. The family will receive friends from 5-7 p.m. Monday at the funeral home.
Graveside Service and Interment will be conducted Tuesday, July 31 at 11 a.m. from the Hilcrest Memorial Gardens. Pall Bearers include James Boling, Jackie Howard, Lee Crumbley, Jackie Crumbley, Dr. John Hofmann and Mitchell Beckler. Honorary pall bearers are Bill Robinson, Grady Simpson, Tim Hurst, Terry Mills, Tim Crisp, Dow Crumbley, Dr. Lindsay Hathcock and lifelong friend, Boyd Wilson.
Jim Rush Funeral Homes has charge of the arrangements.