Obituary: Local surf lifesaving legend John Mills dies aged 94 | Northern Beaches Review
SLSA Life Member JOHN Mills OAM passed away peacefully at his home on Wednesday February 2, in Coffs Harbour.
He was surrounded by his loving children Lorraine, Suzanne, John and Alison and family members at the family home, finally at peace and free from all suffering.
And what a round to celebrate – Millsy was 94! He will be remembered as a proud man born and raised in Coffs Harbour, a father, grandfather, great-grandfather, uncle and father figure to so many, especially his 12 grandsons. beloved children and 16 great-grandchildren who all adored the ground their “GPop” walked on.
John, Neville John and Jack as he became known among his wider family and friends grew up on the banks of Coffs Creek. One of 16 children born to Bill and Sarah Mills, where he enjoyed swimming, playing football and fishing with his siblings.
Millsy became one of Coffs’ greatest surf swimmers, winning numerous local championships and representing Australia in 1950, and was the longest surviving member of the Australian Surfing Team’s touring squad in New -Zealand.
John moved to Sydney, settling in Balgowlah with Aunty Marge where they raised Lorraine, Suzanne, John and Alison, and spent a memorable 30 years. He ruled the waves at Freshwater Surf Club, carving out an extraordinary life and careers in surf lifesaving, swimming, rugby union and rugby league, leaving a lifelong legacy.
John and Marge returned to their beloved Coffs in 1980 where they continued to make a difference for the next 40 years through their tireless community service and John’s love of surf rescue – which earned him the OAM in 1991. (Many thought it was actually Aunt Marge who deserved Australia’s Order of Australia medal.)
Millsy, as he was known on Australia’s vast surf club coast, will be remembered as one of Australia’s true surfing legends.
Not only by wearing the green and gold against the Kiwis, but by representing the NSW sky blues three times – winning four prestigious Australian R&R Championships with Freshie and countless surfing and belting championships in branch, state and Australian with Coffs and Freshwater.
Life Member of Both Clubs, NSW and recently named 308th Life Member of Surf Life Saving Australia.
Lifelong surfer and life coach to thousands of young Australians, from the sands of Coffs Harbor Jetty Beach to his beloved Freshwater Beach on Sydney’s northern beaches.
Johnny Mills – A Lifeline’s Lifeline
Johnny Mills received his bronze medallion in Coffs Harbor in 1945 – a dedicated volunteer – serving his communities in Coffs Harbor and Freshwater on Sydney’s northern beaches with continued vigilance and service.
John Mills was considered by many to be a true unsung Australian icon – a distinguished and humble volunteer champion – a man of extraordinary talent and dedication – the savior of a lifeline.
Seldom has there been a more active, longer, more decorated, dedicated and knowledgeable lifeline in the history of the Australian Surf Life Saving.
John also represented NSW in 1952, 1953 and 1955 at the National Interstate Championships.
A man who risked his life countless times and has coached and educated over 3,500 young Australians to follow in his footsteps – teaching anyone who comes knocking on his door – to become a better lifeguard, a better swimmer, a better paddler , a ski and Ironman paddler – and a better person.
Competitively, John has dominated Surf Races, Belt, Surf Teams, R&R and March Past events at Branch, State and National level with Coffs Harbor and Freshwater.
Mastering huge waves and treacherous conditions long before the surf-powered lifeboats – a man at one with the ocean – who could rival him with the Olympic champions of his day.
Hitching on trains from Coffs Harbor to Port Macquarie and Kempsey for weekend runs – returning at night to work the banana plantations on Monday morning.
In addition to his competitive prowess as one of the best surfers in the country, John was also a long-time committee member at Coffs Harbor and Freshwater and the Manly-Warringah/Sydney/Sydney Northern Beaches – serving as member of the committee, club captain, patrol. Captain, Head Instructor, Boat Captain, Branch Steward, Club Coach, R&R Coach, Surf Coach, Board & Ski Coach, and Ironman Coach, also an active member of the Manly-Warringah/Sydney/Sydney Northern Beaches – umpire at Branch, Metropolitan, NSW and Australian Championships.
Self-taught but equal to the best in the business, Olympians included. Mills has won “Aussies” gold four times in the prestigious Premiership R and R as well as the March Past and Surf teams, also representing Australia and NSW.
He is not only a member, but some 75 years later John has continued his active membership, passing on his vast knowledge by coaching the young people of Coffs Harbor in the skills of surfing, boarding and skiing – with the same enthusiasm which he started with, daily sessions, sometimes twice, at Coffs Harbor Jetty and in the surf and also pool swimming sessions for budding young champions from Coffs Harbour, Sawtell, Woolgoolga, Urunga and Hat Head.
Until last year, he could still be found mustering his troops at Jetty Beach, Coffs Harbor – training kids from 8 to masters at 50.
Coaching has been his life, in surf lifesaving, swimming and rugby, Mills has never stopped coaching – it’s his passion. Even as a competitor, he also coached and continued to coach, instruct and mentor young Australian men and women over his lifetime – coaching countless club, branch, regional, state and national champions. – and is estimated to have trained more than 3,500 young lifeguards. and swimmers – from the surf, pools and coves around the North Shore to the freshwater beach and rock pool – in swimming, R&R, lifesaving certificate, bronze medallion, instructor certificate and training in plank and ironman – continuing to produce excellent champions.
His family of 16 included his late brother Keith Mills who also represented Australia in 1954 and another brother George (competing for Yamba) who won the Australian Open Surf Race Championship in 1937 and rowing brother Les, himself NSW and Australian. rower.
John’s granddaughter Jade Hanson and grandson Kurt Hanson carried on the family’s highest surf lifesaving tradition, with Jade winning the Australian U16 Surfing Teams with Currumbin in 1999 and Kurt winning the coveted Championship Australian Open Surf Belt with Freshwater in 2015 – the club. First-ever National Open Surfing Belt Champion in its 110-year history. Another granddaughter, Brooke, represented Australia at the Athens Olympics in 2004, winning individual silver in the 100m breaststroke and team gold in the 4x100m medley relay – going on to make history with six gold medals at the 2004 World Short Course Championships in Indianapolis.
Do you have something to say? Send a letter to the editor to: [email protected]
Our reporters work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. Here’s how you can access our trusted content: