Image by Olesia Bahrii

Elizabeth R. Mills: A Life of Love and Service

Elizabeth (Ridley) Mills, former SJC first lady, passed away from natural causes June 15, 2021 at Cheshire Medical Center in Keene, NH. She was born April 1, 1943 in Corbridge, Northumberland, Durham County, England.  After World War II she and her mother Dorothy and sisters Margaret and Dorothy joined her father in India.  Her father William B. Ridley, an officer in the RAF, was helping with the transfer of power from the Empire of India to the Republic of India.  When old enough she was sent to a convent boarding school near where her grandfather lived in Jersey, Channel Islands.


In 1953, Liz and her family immigrated to the United States and settled in Fairfield, Connecticut. She met her future husband Ernest R. Mills III while attending Notre Dame High School.  She and Ernie were married September 4, 1965. Her formal education includes an Associate degree from Colby-Sawyer College, a Bachelor’s in Early Childhood Education from Tufts University and a Master’s in Special Education from Mount Saint Mary College, Newburgh New York. Her career was in elementary and special education in Canaan, New Hampshire, Newburgh, New York and Minisink, New York.  She retired in 2001 to become a “First Lady” when her husband Ernie became President of St. Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Indiana.


Liz led a life of love and service. In addition to serving on non-profit Boards of Directors focused on directly helping people.  She had a long history of personal assistance to individuals in need.  In Newburgh she was a volunteer for Literacy Volunteers of America helping a family from Mexico adjust to American life. She participated in the Big Sisters program for years working with a young girl in Newburgh. She worked with Catholic Charities to help people get green cards.  In Rensselaer, through St. Augustine’s Parish, she met and befriended an elderly lady, living alone, and visited her weekly taking her shopping and to appointments.  While living in Grantham, New Hampshire, through Social Services she met an elderly woman in a nursing home who had no visitors. Over the years, until her friend’s passing, she visited her weekly, bringing little things she needed like toothpaste, socks and, of course, one cream filled Dunkin Donut! 


In 2019, Liz and Ernie moved to Hillside Village in Keene, New Hampshire. She continued her service knitting hats for the homeless, triangular prayer shawls for elderly in wheelchairs, and blankets for sick babies as part of the Project Linus Program. On occasion, she heard back from parents that they buried their babies in her blankets. At the beginning of the COVID pandemic she made face masks when there was a shortage.


Liz (Libby to many in her family) is survived by her husband Ernie, sons Richard and daughter-in-law Sara of North Curl Curl, NSW, Australia and Benjamin of Newburgh, New York, sister Dorothy Bacon and brother-in-law Ken of Jaffrey, New Hampshire and brother-in-law Frank Mills of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.  Grandchildren Lindsey, Adam, Emily and Daniel.  Nieces and nephews Jaclyn Headings of Keene, New Hampshire, Jean and her husband Dave Biggs of Portland, Oregon, Francis and his wife Sarah Bacon of Hyde Park, Massachusetts, Christine Bacon of Gothenburg, Sweden, Frank and his wife Kelly Mills of Tacoma Park, Maryland and Bridget Mills of Milford, Pennsylvania.  Her great nieces and great nephews include, Connor and Sophie Headings, Ridley Biggs, Emma Mills, Ryan and Kyle Bacon, Mia Romero and several cousins in England.  She was predeceased by her sister, Margaret J.R. Senechal.

As a final act of love and service she donated her body to Dartmouth Medical School to help prepare future physicians.  In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Hundred Nights Shelter, PO Box 833 Keene, NH 03431.

A Memorial Mass will be offered for Liz at St. Margaret-Mary Catholic Church, 33 Arch Street, Keene, NH, at 11:00 am July 2, 2021.  The Mass will be live streamed on  Interment will be at a later date at the Town of Orange New Hampshire cemetery.