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Though teachers and coaches have a unique opportunity to influence young people, few have done the job as well as Edward W. Mills.
For 65 years, he worked in either a full-time or part-time capacity as a teacher, coach or volunteer at area schools. He began teaching at Vandalia High School in 1946, after serving in World War II. He taught general science and biology, but he also coached a number of sports and served as the basketball scorekeeper for 50 years
Officially, he retired in 1979, but that’s a concept he never embraced; his teaching and his involvement continued the rest of his life. He served as a substitute teacher until the age of 88.
A straight-arrow person himself, he had high expectations for his students. And he wasn’t shy about reminding them of their responsibilities. Several generations of students have been shaped under his firm, but loving, hand.
The scope of his influence was shown by his induction into the Illinois Basketball Hall of Fame in 1990 and his selection as a charter member of the Vandalia Community High School Hall of Fame.
And when he wasn’t teaching, he was active in several community organizations and boards. He even used his expertise in biology to serve as a park ranger and naturalist in Yellowstone National Park for several summers.
His was a life well-lived. Countless students are better people for having had his influence in their lives.