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Elizabeth Ann Thomas Mills, 76, died Sunday, December 2, 2012, at St. Dominic's Hospital in Jackson after a brief fight with cancer and related complications. "Liz" was born, raised and lived for most of her life in Greenville, Mississippi. Born to Lebanese immigrant and dry goods, real estate, and cable company businessman William Thomas, Sr., and Mehiba Solomon Thomas on May 24, 1936, she was graduated from St. Joseph High School in 1954. Socializing at the age of 18 with high school friends on the Mississippi River levee, this stunning young lady met Lowell Price "Tommy" Mills of Richmond, Indiana, who was stationed at Greenville Air Force Base. She never let him return home. At first explaining slyly to her parents that the 21 year old Air Force Cadet Mills - controversially not of Lebanese descent - was her "tutor", Liz and Tommy were soon married on August 1, 1954 at St. James Episcopal Church in Greenville. They were later stationed in Great Falls, Montana, Del Rio and Lubbock, Texas and Glendale, Arizona before returning home in October, 1956 with two baby daughters in tow.
While rearing three children and helping Tommy establish himself as one of Mississippi's finest architects, Liz opened up the Cotton Patch women's clothing store in 1969 and for 26 years was a Delta icon for the latest in ladies fashions. No customer entered the Cotton Patch without coming out with a smile on their face, not only proud they had purchased the 'perfect outfit' but happy to have spent time with Liz and her daughters Pam and Suzie, who with their sincere, loving social skills made them feel very special. Later she was especially proud and supportive of her son William joining his father to form Mills & Mills Architects of Greenville/Oxford/New Albany.
She was a member of the Junior Woman's Club, the Highland Club, the Lebanese-American Club, Delta Diners Dinner Club and the Coterie Club, and was a life-long member of St. James Episcopal Church, among many other activities. Liz loved her friends and enjoyed dancing the Memphis two step in her early years. She especially loved weekends spent at the family lake house on Lake Ferguson. After her brother and sister and all of her children matriculated to Ole Miss, she became an ardent follower of the Rebels; however, only concerning herself with bottom line wins or losses and not all of the details.
It is said by many that "Noni", as she was tagged by her grandchildren, 'broke the mold'. You could literally hear her coming, adorned with portions of her extensive jewelry collection, a hint of her significant love of shopping and the 'high' she received in buying for and giving significantly to others. She held a commanding presence and was clearly a matriarch in the Thomas/Mills clan, speaking to and 'coaching along' her children in multiple phone calls every single day. She clearly stated to anyone - in her distinctive gravelly voice - her opinion on most any personal, social, religious or political matter leaving absolutely nothing for speculation as to where she stood. Liz was strong in mind, heart, and spirit, so much that she was able to courageously survive a near fatal automobile accident in April, 2011. It can certainly be said that she lived her life "her way", and she was especially grateful for that in her last days.
She summoned her entire extended family to her home every Christmas where everyone was showered with countless gifts literally piled to the ceiling that she had begun buying in the summer and 'requiring' attendance at the annual St. James Christmas Eve service where she enjoyed singing the special Christmas hymns with her family. Likewise every summer, for 32 years, the Mills clan convened at their other home - their "piece of heaven" - at Jetty East in Destin, Florida. Noni lavished a uniquely special love on her children and grandchildren, all of whom held her on the highest pedestal. The family will hold in their hearts forever Noni's special stamp on their lives.
Liz Mills is survived by her husband of 58 years, Tommy Mills of Greenville, daughter Pamela Ava Mills Turner (Jon) of Jackson, daughter Suzanne Elizabeth Mills Adcock (Jeff) of Jackson and son William Thomas Mills (Donna) of New Albany and five grandchildren Raney-Mills Turner Kiely (Sean) of New Orleans, David Thomas Adcock (Anna) of Jackson, Mark Newman Adcock of Memphis, Mary-Crosby Turner of Nashville and William Thomas Mills, Jr. of Jackson. She is also survived by her twin brother William Thomas, Jr. of Germantown, Tennessee and her sister Betty Jean Thomas Slade of Madison and a beloved extended family of cousins, nieces and nephews.
A graveside service will be held Wednesday, December 5 at 2:00 p.m. in Greenville Cemetery at 1000 South Main Street, immediately followed by a gathering celebrating Liz's life at St. James Episcopal Church directly across the street. The Rev. Susan K. Crawford will officiate the graveside service. Sebrell Funeral Home in Jackson is handling arrangements. An online guestbook is available at www.sebrellfuneralhome.com/obituaries. Memorials may be made to St. James Episcopal Church, 1026 S. Washington Ave, Greenville, MS 38701.
Published in Clarion Ledger from Dec. 3 to Dec. 4, 2012