Jon Phillip Mills

Lt. Jon Phillip Mills, USN, (ret) passed away on Feb. 9, 2007. He was born to Catherine Amanda Hillebrant and Joseph Robert Mills on Feb. 5, 1932, in Oklahoma City, Okla., moving to Kansas as a toddler.

After graduating from high school in Hoysington, Kan., he joined the Navy on Jan. 10, 1951. He was in the Submarine Forces, serving aboard the USS Bluegill (ss 242), USS Tiru (ss 416), USS Sabalo (ss 302) and USS Stickleback (ss 415). He was then assigned to Amphibious Construction Battalion Unit 1 for two years before reporting aboard the USS Tang (ss 563), off which he was then commissioned to ensign, having already achieved the rank of chief. In all, Jon did seven West Pacific cruises and three special operations cruises, including going under the North Pole.

In 1965, Jon was then transferred to the USS Tombigbee AOG-11 as the executive/engineering officer serving off the coast of Vietnam until 1968, when the captain was taken off the ship and Jon was given the command to bring the ship back to Pearl Harbor. His next duty was a shore billet serving as special services officer/mess treasurer officers’ club in Hawaii.

In 1971, wanting to be more active again, Jon volunteered for Vietnam, this time being sent to Saigon as an advisor with a Vietnam counterpart. November 1972 saw him re-assigned to Singapore as the U.S. Navy’s representative in the overhaul of U.S. ships for Vietnam. The fall of Vietnam in 1973 brought him home and back to the Submarine Forces with duty in New London, Conn., as the X.O. of Lower Base.

Jon finished out his illustrious career from 1974 to ’75 with the “Alligator Fleet” in Norfolk, Va., first on the USS Nashville LPD-13, then lent out to the USS Austin LPD-11, finally retiring off the Nashville in September 1975.

With a new baby and a Starcraft pop-up trailer in tow, there was a six-week 5,000-mile zigzag trip home to Napa. Starting his civilian life in Sonoma County was a stint at Sonoma Water Engineering followed by 10 plus years as the director of maintenance and operations with Dominican College of San Rafael. A move home to Napa in the late ’80s had Jon first with Marriott Corporation, then settling in at “M & O” with Napa Valley Unified School District — retiring once again in 2000.

Jon was very involved with the Optimist Club of Napa, helping out wherever needed, but with the death of Ginny’s parents, Jon took over the (it’s an inherited position) snack bar at the Napa Valley College gym for the Optimist Youth Basketball League.

Retirement also gave Jon the chance to use his vast knowledge of submarines as a docent for the USS Pampanito (ss 383) at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. Jon was very involved with Submarine Veterans Inc. and also with the Submarine Veterans of World War II, going with his father-in-law and ending up as associate member.

Jon is survived by his wife of 33 years, the former Virginia (Ginny) Thornton, of Napa; three daughters, Martha (Paul) Cooke of Lubbock, Texas, Catherine Mills of Plumas Lake and Emily Mills of Napa; and four grandchildren, Eileen, Robin, Morgan and Aiden.

Private committal will be at Tulocay Cemetery in Napa.

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