Willis N. Mills, Jr.
Willis N. Mills, Jr, FAIA, a well-known modern architect who designed churches, museums, libraries and office buildings throughout the northeast, died of natural causes on December 11, 2020, in Ponte Vedra, Florida. He was 87.
Mr. Mills was the President of Sherwood Mills & Smith, later known as SMS Architects, an architectural firm in Stamford and New Canaan, Connecticut. A Fellow of the American Institute of Architects and President of the Connecticut Society of Architects, Mr. Mills designed many award-winning buildings. Some of his projects included St. Matthew's Church in Wilton, Connecticut, the Hudson River Museum and Learning Center in Yonkers, New York, 1600 Summer Street in Stamford, Connecticut, the IBM Systems Development Complex in Poughkeepsie, New York, the Nyala Farms Office Complex in Westport, Connecticut, Lyon Farm in Greenwich, Connecticut, Waveny Care Center and the New Canaan Library in New Canaan, Connecticut, the James Case House in Van Hornesville, New York, and Round Hill Community Church in Greenwich, Connecticut. His works appeared in Architectural Record, the AIA Journal, House Beautiful and other publications.
Mr. Mills loved his profession. His family included a number of noted commercial architects, including his father, Willis N. Mills, FAIA, and his brother, Matthew R. Mills, AIA, founding partner of RMW Architects of San Francisco. Mr. Mills had a keen mind, an uncompromising sense of design, and a hunger to achieve—all of which served his clients well.
Mr. Mills spent most of his childhood in New Canaan. He attended Kent School, in Kent, Connecticut, where he graduated as Valedictorian of the class of 1951.
He earned an A.B. in Architecture from Princeton University, magna cum laude, in 1955, then his M.F.A. from Princeton's Architecture School, summa cum laude, in 1957. While at Princeton, Mr. Mills was Captain of the Men's Varsity Golf Team, which won two Eastern Intercollegiate Championships during his tenure.
After graduate school, Mr. Mills served in the United States Air Force, achieving the rank of Captain before starting his professional career.
He initially worked at Kohn Pedersen Fox, the international architecture firm, before joining Sherwood Mills & Smith, a firm which had been founded by his father and other partners.
Active in local and state Democratic politics, Mr. Mills served on the Board of Selectmen for the Town of Wilton, Connecticut for much of the 1970s.
Mr. Mills was an avid and competitive golfer. He won numerous individual match and stroke play championships at Silver Spring Country Club in Connecticut, Eastward Ho Golf Club in Massachusetts, Sawgrass Country Club in Florida, and Marsh Landing Club in Florida, where he held memberships. He also won several U.S. Seniors Golf Association events at a number of sites throughout the country. Towards the end of his golf career, he competed in the U.S. National Senior Amateur Championships.
Mr. Mills was married for 64 years to the former Elizabeth W. Case. They met in Princeton, during Mr. Mills' graduate studies. Golf, sailing, travel, politics and modern art were shared passions throughout their life together. During their marriage, they resided in Wilton, Connecticut, in Chatham, Massachusetts and in Ponte Vedra, Florida.
Along with his wife, Mr. Mills is survived by their four children: Nathaniel Mills of Coventry, Connecticut; Jonathan B. Mills of Greenwich, Connecticut; Elizabeth Mills Bedell of Charlotte, Vermont; and David W. Mills of Stamford, Connecticut. He is also survived by ten grandchildren.
Due to COVID-19 constraints, the family plans to have a Memorial Service in 2021.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the American Alzheimer's Association
, or to a charity of your choice
Published by Stamford Advocate & Wilton Bulletin & Greenwich Time from Dec. 15 to Dec. 16, 2020.