Farewell, Mrs Mills
Sunday, January 5 2014
click on pic to zoom in
Therese Mills is greeted by then First Lady Dr Jean Richards while President Max Richards, looks on, last December....
The management and staff of Daily News Ltd, publishers of Newsday pay tribute to Marie- Therese Mills, Executive Chairman/CEO and Editor in Chief, on her sudden passing on New Year’s day.
Her funeral will be held on Tuesday at Church of Nativity, Crystal Stream, Diego Martin, at 9.30am to be followed by a private interment.
Following are tributes from staff, in her honour:
An era of Therese Mills –
my journalist partner
It was in March, 1946, when Mrs Therese Mills and I crossed paths at the then Port-of-Spain Gazette. She was a reporter for the social page, while I trudged the corridors of the magistrates’ court. as a Shorthand reporter for the Gazette.
Somehow, maybe through fate, we followed each other in the media over the past 67 years.
We were also together at the then Trinidad Publishing Company, better known as the Guardian.
By some fate, we also both retired from the Guardian in 1993.
As fate would have it, I received a phone call from her at home for a private meeting. Private?
What for, I enquired. “Just attend,” was her reply.
Through curiousity, as a newspaperman, I did attend, only to be told by her that a group of businessmen wanted to establish a newspaper in Trinidad. A third? I enquired. She responded “yes..” The business group admitted they had the money, but not the expertise.
Mrs Mills accepted, and decided to rope in other experienced journalists to produce a “good news” paper. That “good news” did not last as the hawkers had pointed out to us. On the third day of publication there was a double murder, and Newsday never looked back from then.
We were off from the starting blocks with much gusto. All of this, just after we were labelled as
“geriatrics.” The doubting Thomases insisted there was no room for a third newspaper in Trinidad and Tobago. “They would last three months; then, they would last six months.” But while the doubting Thomases watched from the sidelines, we were at our jobs ‘tooth and nail’ to prove them wrong. At the head of all the work was this “Iron Lady of Journalism.” leading the charge. To me, Therese Mills is one of those unforgettable journalists.
Working at her side, I was able to read her, while learning at the same time.
Don’t cross her path, or else you’ll feel the sharp edge of her sword. But don’t be fooled. She was as motherly as they came. She was strict; fair, quick to forgive, and when it came to reporting, she usually succeeded in her endeavours. She would be sadly missed.
She was one of the outstanding persons who, through early times, guided me in achieving several journalism awards, and National Awards.
Others to whom I owed much included, the late Lenn Chongsing, Kitty Hannays, Johnson Ince, Jock Barker, and my Shorthand teacher, the late Gwendolyn Jordan-Elcock. Enough said.
John Babb Associate Editor
and Journalist for Life.
Spellbound for all these years
Whoever said big men don’t cry? Believe it not. I’ve cried a river of tears so far with more to come in the next few days.
True to say, Therese Mills had me spellbound for more than 30 years, but even more so in the last 20 years with the birth of Newsday, and in the final days reflecting on her indomitable character, her strength even when she was physically weak and complained of feeling ill.
During those moments I’d always tell her how I admired her strength and that if I had even a measure of it, I’d be contented. She’d smile. And then she would be ready for the next fight, taking on any new challenge.
She certainly took off the gloves for a fist to face confrontation in 2012 when the police raided our office - the Anti-Corruption Investigations Bureau - arrived like a “thief in the night” searching for information concerning a row between the then deputy chairman and the chairman of the Integrity Commission. An attack on press freedom! Mrs Mills exclaimed, and she put pen to paper writing in an editorial which appeared the next day under the headline “Police state”, thundering: “In the last days of the PNM administration its leader, Patrick Manning made the fatal error of barging into a radio station to express his disagreement of a commentary aired by the station.
“The PP administration seems to be going down the same road - a dangerous journey. They will rue the day. After the media, who is next?”
Such was her courage. No one was spared her journalistic sword.
But she could be just as tender and motherly, like when in 1997, there she was at midnight standing on the pavement outside our Chacon Street office waiting for me to arrive following a plane crash in St Vincent involving nationals. The only others stirring on the street at the time were vagrants.
Thank God for giving her to us this long. Amen.
Public Affairs Editor
The last time
THE last time I spoke with Mrs Mills was on Christmas Day, when she telephoned from her home while I was editor on the desk, to enquire what my lead was going to be for the next day’s edition.
After telling her I wanted to lead with the story about the Christmas Eve storm which lashed St Vincent and St Lucia, leaving a combined total of 13 deaths, Mrs Mills told me, “Ok Ken, finish the paper early and get home safely to your family. Wish your wife and daughters a merry Christmas for me.”
Had I known then, that this would be the last time I would have spoken to the woman who for the past 14 years was not only my boss, but also my mentor, advisor, teacher and friend, I would certainly not have finished the paper early, for I would have spent several hours on the telephone thanking her for all that she had done for me, not only as a journalist but as a person.
I met this remarkable woman for the first time in July 1999, when she invited me in for an interview for the position of crime reporter.
Although she was the undisputed boss at Newsday, holding the titles of executive chairman, editor in chief and chief executive officer, Mrs Mills was first and foremost a journalist who was most at home in the newsroom.
Under her patient guidance, the reportage skills of several reporters including yours truly were honed and refined. She taught me that whether it’s a crime story, a feature, an investigative piece, a sports story or even a book review, a journalist must at all times cloak himself or herself in the fabric of accuracy. She hammered into my head the reporter’s adage, ‘When in doubt, leave out!’
I learnt not only the rudiments and theory of journalism under Mrs Mills, but also the history of journalism and indeed Trinidad and Tobago, through her vast recollection of stories and story makers of yesteryear.
But most importantly, what Mrs Mills taught me was that a journalist must at all times treat the profession with the respect it deserves through accurate and faithful reporting. “Stick to the facts...nothing else,” was one of her favourite pieces of advice.
To put it simply, Mrs Mills played an integral part in my development as a journalist and words will never be sufficient to express the full depth of my gratitude to this wonderful woman.
When on New Year’s Day, I got that dreaded call that she had passed on, I felt numb. I knew she was not in the best of health, but when I heard those words, “Mrs Mills is gone”, it shook me to the core.
Ken Chee Hing
Reached for hand but
Good must end for a better to begin and the best is the place to which our beloved boss has now ascended.
She was my boss and indeed a friend, someone who reached for your hand but touched your heart.
She did the right thing and influenced others to do likewise, to include regular mid-day Mass at Sacred Heart Church, Monday’s through Friday’s, and on the occasions when she could not attend she would say, “Mr Parris, say one for me.”
She demonstrated strength, patience, persistence and fortitude and when that failed, she repeated the procedure, until the objective was achieved.
To miss her will cause me too much pain and as such, I’ll remember her always and continue to apply that which is right, using the procedure of strength, patience, persistence and fortitude which has made our working relationship a joy over the period of twenty nine years between the Guardian Newspaper and Newsday.
It is said that, “your life and mine shall be valued not by what we take, but by what we give,” in context, Top of the line comes to mind.
Lovingly in the hands of the Father.
Denzil TA Parris
Personnel & Industrial Relations Manager
True press champion
Mrs Mills was not only a wonderful human being and a formidable journalist, but she was one of the few true champions of press freedom and freedom of expression in this country. Her career alone opened up the media fraternity to women. But also, in later years, Mrs Mills faced attempts to starve the Newsday of advertising revenue, appeared before a Parliamentary committee which sought to ban the paper from covering Parliament, and also came to see the day when her newspaper’s offices were raided by the police in a spurious attempt to unearth its sources at the behest of the Integrity Commission, an incident she once described as the biggest challenge the paper ever faced. Throughout this all, she stood firm never wavering and constantly committed to the freedoms which form a key plank of our democracy. She has also contributed so much to press freedom in untold ways. In this regard, she was a true light in the journalistic world and beyond.
My pillar of strength
It is with deep regret that I am writing this. It was a moment I thought would never come but it has and I am yet to come to terms with the passing of a woman who was not only my boss but someone who I considered my second mother.
When I joined Newsday 17 years and six months ago it was Mrs Mills who guided and molded me into the journalist I have become.
I was just 27 years old when I joined Daily News Limited and I must say it was a privilege working alongside the Iron Lady of journalism.
Not only was she a mentor but she displayed compassion and ladylike qualities which I admired and respected her for.
I remember being given assignments which other journalists opted out of and because the assignments I was asked to cover were under the instructions of Mrs Mills I had to deliver.
I remember being telephoned sometimes late at nights or even early on mornings by Mrs Mills asking me to get information which later became front page articles in Newsday for which I was always praised.
Apart from being a woman of substance, Mrs Mills demonstrated qualities of compassion and good will and even in the most trying times she was always there for me and gave me the strength to continue. I remember at one time being given an assignment to get a picture of Levi Morris the man who gave evidence against Dole Chadee and his gang of 10. I delivered the photo to Mrs Mills and I was financially rewarded. I still smile when I remember all the tough assignments given to me but I must say that because of the person who she was she had the ability to encourage me to always strive for excellence.
One of the last tough assignments I received from her was last year when she asked me to find out who was going to be this country’s next President and when I delivered she was elated and again rewarded me. She never forgot to praise her staff when they did excellent work and she was always willing to lend a helping hand in times of need. When I became seriously ill last year she stood at my side, always telephoned my husband to enquire about my health and surprised me with a visit to my home where she asked me to return to work. It was something I could not refuse and through the intervention of the Almighty I was indeed able to resume duties and continued working alongside Mrs Mills who has been my pillar of strength in all my years at Newsday. I still cannot believe that she is gone but I am grateful that I was given the opportunity to work alongside her and feel blessed about being given that opportunity.
Although she is no longer with us she will always remain etched in my memory. May her soul rest in peace.
Crime Desk Editor
Generous with her time
If you are the founder, Executive Chairman, CEO and Editor-In-Chief of a respected national newspaper, everyone anticipates you may be perennially pressed for time, a little bit low on or out of patience, and understandably drained of your energy. If you are Therese Mills, then we’ve come to expect the unexpected.
Mrs Mills was always generous with her time and counsel and was never too busy to listen or offer encouraging words.
The Pagination Department shapes Newsday into the product you see on news stands throughout Trinidad and Tobago. It is a hub of activity especially when deadlines are in focus. Naturally, Mrs Mills took a keen interest in our activities. Much is already known and has been said about Mrs Mills’ natural affinity for and mastery of words. But, Mrs Mills was also a conceptualizer... she had an eye for detail and possessed creative ideas of how imagery could best illustrate the essence of information. Her ideas for the presentation of news were as bold as her vision that brought Newsday into being more than 20 years ago, amid the doubts and nay-saying of others around her. She has successfully pioneered a graphic design style and direction that has changed the way newspapers look today.
Mrs Mills was also generous... she was as generous in her distribution of reprimands as she was with accolades. Moreover, she was always seen as fair, balanced and objective in her assessments. Her generosity though, was not limited to work-related issues.
Mrs Mills was a doting mother, a proud grandmother and a mentor to those who had the privilege of working closely with her. Often her advice and policies were dictated by the obvious compassion she possessed and demonstrated by her actions. Therefore, it is not difficult to understand the deep sense of loss the Newsday family shares with her children, grandchildren, relatives and friends. She was more than just our boss... Newsday is personified by all that she was, and she will be missed by all.
To her family, we at the Pagination Department express our heartfelt condolences. Rest in peace Mrs Mills.
Pledged unwavering support
Mrs Mills has been the major influence in my photographic life. Besides being trained at the Guardian newspaper by one of the best photographers in the business at the time, Rudy Taylor and my sister Ena Maharaj, Mrs Mills has molded my career and given me the opportunity to do things photographically which I never dreamed were possible.
I have covered a World Cup in Germany; devastating storms in islands like Grenada; a general election in Guyana which Cheddi Jagan won and I was faced with a barrage of challenges; the first ever Cricket World Cup in the Caribbean and travelling to South Africa for the West Indies first tour of South Africa when Nelson Mandela was still alive.
These are some of the memories which I will cherish for the rest of my life and I owe them all to Mrs Therese Mills. My parents died when I was now beginning my career in the media and Mrs Mills became a second mother to me. She took me under her wing at the Guardian and helped me to develop as a person and a professional. When she decided to take up the helm at Newsday, I pledged my unwavering support to her and shared her vision in building the paper to what it has become today.
I will always be in her debt and be forever grateful for everything she has done for me. My association with Mrs Mills has been over 30 years. She was the most stern, kind, gentle and knowledgeable person that I have ever met. I have always looked up to her.
Thank God for Therese Mills. May she rest in peace.
Newsday Chief photographer
Inspiration to all women
I have worked with Therese Mills for the last 17 years and witnessed her strength and determination as a woman in an industry dominated by men. She served as an inspiration to all women seeking to develop their full potential. Her legacy at Newsday would be closely safeguarded and would withstand the test of time.
Today I join with the rest of my colleagues in paying tribute to our wonderful leader Mrs Therese Mills whom I have had the privilege of working with at Newsday for over 20 years. Mrs Mills’ gentle and sometime firm guidance has certainly made us all so much better at who we are and what we do.
Now in the gentle hands of God, may she rest in peace.
GAIL BALWANT -
Mrs Mills was a commanding presence and influence not only in Newsday, but the entire media industry. It is difficult to picture the company, without her being there. It was a privilege to have known her and worked with her. She will truly be missed.
Mirella Mitchell - Villafana
Advertising Manager - Direct Sales
Life lessons will live on
Mrs Mills was the matriarch of our Newsday family.
Memories of sitting in her office, midnight calls when problems occur, coordinating special editions all come flooding back.
She was our advisor, guide and mentor as individuals, not only professionally but carried into our personal lives.
We will miss you Mrs Mills but all you have taught us will live on.
I personally thank you for your firm yet gentle guiding hands. I have learned so much over my 18 years working under your stewardship. I know I am as we all are... better people for this. May God and his angels keep you in their gentle care.
Could fall in love with voice alone
Mrs Mills won my heart because she almost single-handedly pioneered a third daily newspaper in Trinidad and Tobago, which for a period, surpassed the other long-established ones. It was a honour to have her as a guide and mentor in journalism for many years, each day of which, I learnt lessons of standards, values and integrity in my approach to reporting the news. What stands out most of all, was how passionately she would discuss with reporters, incidents of violence against women and children, and the insistence on reporters to follow-up on such stories. Suffice it to say though, I will forever cherish her conversation with me when, on a day in the first week of the Holy Month of Ramadaan last year, Mrs Mills telephoned home and asked: “Azard, are you reaching home on time to break your fast? Ok good, that is very important.” She then spoke about other matters, but that was CEO/Executive Chairman/Editor in Chief.
It was that combination of genuine concern for your personal welfare, and a towering personality, that set such high standards in the newsroom. For those who were not familiar like us in Newsday to know and work with her, you would fall in love with her voice alone. It was towering, yet gentle.
Court Editor - South
More than a boss
I met Mrs Mills in 1996 fresh out of secondary school, ever since she has been like a mother to me. She taught me the meaning of loyalty, dedication, hard work and how to be a family. I never thought in my life time I would have to say goodbye to one of the strongest, most intelligent and caring person I have ever met. She was more than a boss. I always thought Mrs Mills would live forever and now I know that she will forever live in my thoughts and heart. I have always strived to make her proud, that was the quality she possessed.
Rest in peace Mrs Mills.
Photographic Editor, South Office
Writer, editor, pioneer,
So many people who knew her better than I have written eulogies on the life and achievements of Therese Mills that I hesitate to add my two cents’ worth of thanks, admiration and appreciation for her life and work. In fact it was a physical shock when I heard of her death, so sudden, so unexpected, yet, perhaps, it was as she would have wished, to die, as it were in the saddle, respected by all her colleagues in the media.
On a purely personal note, I first ‘met’ her through her columns in the Guardian 40 years ago as ‘Mamits’ writing letters to ‘Boysie’ recounting the life and hilarious adventures of Tante Merle. It was she who encouraged me to write weekly columns about the environment - and anything else of interest that came my way. She who showered me with invitations to art exhibitions that led to reviews of art in Newsday.
She made time to listen and to advise the least of contributors to the newspaper. Firm but fair and compassionate seems to me to sum up a career through the ranks to the top of her profession, dedicated to the print media throughout except for one mercifully brief spell as PRO to an oil company before returning to her life’s work in journalism.
My deepest sympathy to her family, and to colleagues in Newsday. We were indeed fortunate to know her - we shall not look upon her like again. Rest in peace, Therese.
Keen eye for details
LEADER, mentor, guide and friend. These to me are some of the words by which I will always remember Mrs Therese Mills by. Since joining Newsday some 15 years ago in September 1998, right out of university and with no knowledge of the world of journalism, the lessons which I have learnt from Mrs Mills have proven to be invaluable.
She always had a keen eye for details and I was always fascinated by the way in which she could dissect any issue and get to what the facts were. I owe much of my growth as a journalist to the advice and constructive criticism which she has given me over the years.
I will always cherish the times she would spend time chatting with myself and my colleagues on Newsday’s political desk, Andre Bagoo and Sean Douglas, about the political issues of the day. Those chats always left us enriched with ideas and energy to pursue old stories and find new ones.
Clint Chan Tack
Business Day Editor
An excellent leader
I met Mrs Mills in 1981 when I joined the Sunday Guardian. She was the editor of that paper. I had spent my first years in journalism at the Express and wasn’t sure that I wanted to continue in this field. Working with Mrs Mills, however, opened my eyes to what journalism was all about and it was because of her I decided to make it my career.
Mrs Mills was all the things people have been saying about her — gentle, generous, passionate, dedicated, mentoring, courageous. She was also an excellent leader. I remember the coup attempt in 1990. She was the editor-in-chief at the time and remained at the Guardian the Friday night with the few members of staff who stayed on the job as bullets ripped into the walls of the building from the Red House, where a group of the insurgents was holding the Prime Minister and Members of Parliament hostage (the national library had not been built as yet and there was a clear view between the two buildings).
Mrs Mills took charge of the situation and the next morning she arranged for food to be brought for those of us who were still there and we set about the task of producing a paper. With the announcement of the 24-hour curfew in and around Port-of- Spain, we were unable to print the paper so we headed out to our homes later that day. But Mrs Mills stayed on the job. She arranged with the police and army to allow employees to return the following day and we were able to put out the Guardian everyday as the drama continued outside. Through it all Mrs Mills was there directing our news meetings, planning the paper and calming nerves.
In 1993, she left to start the Newsday and I stayed at the Guardian until August 2011. The following month I joined Newsday and once again I was working for “the iron lady”. It has been 16 months. For this I am grateful.
Her commitment to training resulted in both local and overseas courses not only for me but for many others who have been fortunate to work for her during her time at the Guardian.
I will also fondly remember her Christmas pudding at her home many years ago.
Getting the story right
Mrs Mills as we addressed her was a bulwark of journalistic integrity and her insistence on getting the story right was a key feature of her management of the news room.
And although her main offices at Port-of-Spain is located several miles away from the South office, she was not one to stand on ceremony but was known to call reporters and address them by their first name to apprise for herself the story they may have been working on and what the angle of that particular story might be. She would also be remembered for her strong religious beliefs and her firm but caring hand will be sorely missed by everyone who had to privilege to have known and worked for her.
Blessing and inspiration
Since entering the media as a photo journalist for the past 24 years Mrs Mills, was a blessing and inspiration to me and I am sure it was the same to all who came in contact with her. I worked with her at the Guardian until she left and founded the Newsday where I again had the opportunity to work with her as my Editor in Chief.
One thing I can say for sure is that she was always accommodating and helped her workers in their journalistic pursuits. I personally will miss her greatly because she was like a mother to me for all the years I have known her. I must say that I am very happy to have known her and to have worked with her until the time of her death.
Newsroom pays tribute
Marlene Augustine - Mrs Mills was not only my boss but a true inspirational person to me. She gave me the encouragement and inspired me to go forward. In my trying times, with the loss of my daughter, Mrs Mills was my rock of encouragement, to take the negative and turn it into something positive.
Even though she knew I had little knowledge of journalism, she insisted that I build my confidence and continued to inspire me in this field.
She once told me that her life was based upon serving God, her family and her job, which was not an easy task but she always pushed herself to make sure that the work was done.
A woman with a heart like hers was big enough to share with everyone.
God has called another one of his daughters home and I know, that she is comfortable and resting, waiting to see her loved ones once again
I am grateful that God placed me in Mrs Mills’ path, so that I could gain invaluable knowledge from her.
Rachael Espinet - When I first got the offer to be a reporter at Newsday I did not know that I would be working for the trailblazer in journalism for women. Back then I did not know the amazing history that Newsday and Mrs Mills had. Now that I do I am honoured and humbled to have worked for her.
In years to come, history will write about Mrs Mills who paved the way for other females in journalism. I don’t know if Mrs Mills called herself a feminist, but in my eyes, talking to her and hearing her stories, she is one of the greatest feminists Trinidad and Tobago has had. Rest in peace Mrs Mills. Thank you for the opportunity you gave me and other female journalists. You truly lived an amazing life.
Julien Neaves - I knew Mrs Mills for a very brief time but during the few interactions I had with her, she was always regal, gentle, soft-spoken and intelligent.
Sasha Harrinanan - Mrs Mills was someone I spoke with occasionally, most often about a story I was working on. She knew how to weed out real news from ‘fluff’ and always reminded us to know our audience/readers. Write in a manner they would understand, ‘hook’ them with your first line and make each word count.
Mrs Mills was recently referred to by veteran journalist/Court Protocol and Information Manager of the Judiciary, Jones P Madeira, as ‘the Iron Lady of journalism in Trinidad and Tobago.”
I nodded my head in agreement when I heard that because during one of her rare sit-down chats with us, Mrs Mills said a true journalist keeps pursuing a story until it is told in its entirety, reflecting all sides. She also recalled that on her way to breaking the glass ceiling in local journalism, she learnt to demand respect from her co-workers and editors while remaining respectful toward them.