In Celebration of
January 1, 1933 -
February 12, 2023
I know most of you didn’t have the pleasure of knowing my dad but if you’ll just allow me the next few lines to try to sum up the life of a decent, truly good man. How do I make you understand the emptiness of losing our dad? I know people will say 90 years is a life well lived but it will never be the right time to say goodbye. He was the much loved father of Nicole Ferri (Luciano) and Anita-Lynn Studley, adoring husband to our mom Anita Lockhart (1937-2016), and the man who was more of a father-figure to his granddaughter Tristyn. He was the proud Papa to Gillian (Joe), Alexander (Brie), and Robert (Ola). Born to Agnes Brodie (Loanhead, Scotland) and Robert Mills (Dundalk Ireland), dad was raised in Toronto and attended York Memorial High School. He met his one true love, Anita, at a dance in Port Severn and he never looked back. Dad had 4 grandchildren of whom he was exceedingly proud, and he would boast about them whenever anyone would listen. When his first grandchild was placed in his arms, there was no prying her away. He’d stare at her and tell her how much he loved her. When Alex was born, I thought he would burst with joy. Such a big strong boy with an incredible laugh. Robert was the third of his grandchildren and dad thought he had everything a man could ask for. When his last grandchild, Tristyn, was born she was the apple of his eye. When the hospital asked if he needed help to pick out his grandchild he said, “No, that’s her right there. She looks exactly like her mom when she was born”. Dad was a strict father but like he always said “I love my girls”. Watching my sister and I compete or perform was one of his greatest joys. Incredibly proud of being Scottish, many a weekend were spent at the Highland Games cheering us on, and maybe a pint in the beer tent with the pipers. We lovingly recall that we would rate a movie based on how many cups of tea dad asked us to make for him while he would fast forward the vhs passed anything he thought was vulgar or too much for his girls. Many a movie night was a 4 cup of tea night, and dad mumbling to mom “who picked this crap”.
Never one to mince words or beat around the bush. You could rest assured if dad called you friend, that was a compliment indeed. He believed in truth, respect, and honesty, all things he could not forgive in anyone who hurt any of us. Dad was always our champion, and my greatest defender. I remember him telling me that “people don’t cheat and lie because of who you are. They do it because of who they are not”. That will always stick with me.
Dad was part of the Signal Corps, and was stationed in Newfoundland. Later, dad became a firefighter for the borough of York (now Toronto Fire). He was a captain, leader, and tough as nails. You might not like everything dad said, but by God, you wanted him by your side in a battle. He was a man’s man and brother-in-arms. I know there are many people alive because of his actions and kind heart.
The men at the fire hall teased dad because of his love of his cars. He could take a car apart and put it back together better than new. Dad's cars were always spotless, like they just rolled off the showroom floor. Sometimes the guys at the fire hall would decide to have a little fun with dad's license plates, turning HRM in to such pearls as "sHRMp" or "pee wee HRM". Dad always talked about those men with such love and admiration. He called them and the police at 13 division “my brothers”.
Harry was a great teacher and incredibly well read. He wrote and taught the hazard materials course at the Ontario Fire College for many years. He also was a historian and an amateur genealogist, a passion he passed on to us. When dad came on school trips, he ended up explaining more to the class then the person giving the tour because he was such a great historian. Sometimes this was awesome, sometimes a tad embarrassing.
Dad was also a pilot, and owned his own Cessna. He would take my sister and I out on a weekend flying, practicing his touch and goes until the day air sickness kicked in for me, and from then on, dad was flying solo.
Such an accomplished man, dad was a member of the Free Masons. We would tease him, referring to it as the "water buffalos" (some of you might get the Flintstones reference). He didn’t attend many meetings in later years, but dad held their beliefs and secrets deep in his heart.
Hockey was a great passion of dads, and he knew many a Leaf player growing up. He joked that it sure isn’t the game he once played, and that players had gone soft. In later years, dad enjoyed teaching our mom how to play golf, and he was a Marshal at his local course in Wasaga Beach. Just picturing dad zooming around on his golf cart telling people to move along makes me smile. He was always Captain Mills. If you look at dads photo, you might note that he bore a striking resemblance to the actor Leslie Nielsen from the Airplane movies. People would approach dad and ask if he was indeed the actor, to which he always replied, “No, I’m his much better looking, younger cousin”. Dad would joke about himself to mom that he was “strikingly good looking with cerulean blue eyes”, to which mom replied, “You better not be batting those baby blues around Harry”. Always generous with the phone messages, I might have 100 of my dad from years gone by with the same few words: “Hi dear, it’s just your dad”. But you just knew with dad that always meant: “It’s your dad and I love you”. I’m going to miss our morning and afternoon calls dad and our walks with my dogs and Tristyn. I’ll miss your words of wisdom and your smile. I know you leave behind many friends and family who’s lives are better for knowing you. Thanks for always having our backs, and in recent years, cheering me on to fight for truth and accountability. Nicole and I know you have a date this Valentines with your best girl, and we don’t want to keep Anita waiting for her silver fox. Give mom love from us, and know someday we will see you both again. It’s been a privilege and an honour to say “that’s my dad”.
The last alarm has rung and your girl is waiting.
We love you, daddy.
In lieu of flowers a donation to I’ve got your back 911 (a charity for ems workers with PTSD) would be appreciated. www.ivegotyourback911.com
Celebration of life to follow this spring.