Community comes out to support 2014 Bogalusa Citizen of the Year

Published 9:20 am Saturday, June 6, 2015

There are those individuals who like to talk about their community work. Others quietly go about their business assisting those in need away from the glaring spotlight.

Frances Mills is an example of the latter.

Mills was honored Thursday night at Bogalusa Country Club as the 2014 Bogalusa Citizen of the Year. She was selected by past honorees.

During Thursday’s ceremony, Mills listened as 2013 recipient Johni Miles-Blount, Beverly Sheridan, Mary Boulware and Pete Farmer spoke from the heart as they reflected at length on what their association with Mills meant to each of them personally.

When it time for Mills to speak at the end, she was succinct and to the point. She said she was grateful to see all her family and friends at the ceremony. She reflected upon the early times as a volunteer helping the YWCA and Boys Scouts.

“I recognize my friends, including my friends from Franklinton. I want to thank my children and grandchildren. This is wonderful to see all my dear friends here.”

First Presbyterian Church, Our Lady of the Angels Hospital and Westminster Woods all are special places for her.

Mills is an active member of First Presbyterian’s Friendship Circle and is a choir member.

Westminister Woods is an independent living facility for senior citizens. She has been an active board member since it opened in 1997. She has served as board president for the last two years.

“I came here to Bogalusa and my first volunteer job was collecting money for the community chest,” Mills said. “We’d have collections for the YWCA and Boys Scouts. We’d get enough money for these organizations to be funded.”

Two of her children attended. They were Linda Miller and Emily Johnson. Grandchildren who attended were Woody and Melissa Wood.

Master of Ceremonies and Daily News Managing Editor and General Manager David Vitrano presented Mills with a full-color version of the front page that contained Mills’ announcement as Citizen of the Year.

Representing the city, Bogalusa Mayor Wendy Perrette presented Mills with a silver platter.

Bridget Russell of Gayle’s Jewelers presented Mills with a gift from the past recipients.

Miles-Blount talked about what she accomplished over the past year and what the experience of being selected meant to her. She left the ceremony early to attend a board meeting for the Museums of Cassidy Park.

“This past year I continued volunteering at the Cassidy Park Museums being affixed with the titles of vice president of the board and membership chairman. Yes, I’m the one that sends all those little letters and postcards begging for money for the museums. Also, back in March, I co-chaired the Cassidy Park Museums’ Cook-off Barbecue, which is the Museums’ largest fundraiser. Needless to say, the museums have kept me quite busy this past year.”

Miles Blount switched gears and shared what it meant for her to be chosen for the honor. Winners who are out of town at the time of selection receive phone calls from the committee.

“I don’t know about you Frances, but it just really felt good to get that phone call — real good to be honored in this way,” Miles-Blount said. “When you set out to work in your community, you don’t think about doing it to receive an award. You volunteer because you want to make your community a better place in which to live. You want to be a part of something that matters to you and to others. I guess that you just want to leave your stamp on the world that says I’ve been here. I don’t think there could be any better feeling that knowing that, somehow, you’ve mattered and that, perhaps, when you have left this earth, someone will say ‘Yea, I remember her.’”

Miles-Blount then offered a personal message to Mills.

“Frances, I congratulate you on being chosen this year’s Citizen of the Year and I hope that you feel tonight like I felt last year — very honored,” she said.

Miles-Blount present Mills with a plant.

Beverly Sheridan, the 2006 recipient, spoke about how caring Mills is for others.

“When I think of Frances, what comes to my mind is a caring, hardworking consistent volunteer,” Sheridan said. “She has gone about her work quietly and unassumingly serving others for the good of the community. Frances has made volunteerism her vocation for decades. Most important is that she is just as active today as she has been for over 50 years. She has been involved in many aspects of the community, but most of her devotion has been directed to her church and the hospital. Frances’ devotion is because she cares.”

Sheridan touched on the time they both worked at the hospital in the mid-1970s.

“I first met Frances when I first started working at the hospital while caring for her husband prior to his death,” Sheridan said. “When Frances had to endure the loss of her husband, daughter and son-in-law early in their lives, she stepped up to nurture her children and grandchildren. She never wavered in her faith and her devotion to serve others. As her children and grandchildren required less of her time, she generously gave more of her time to the hospital. She was there so much that many thought she worked at the hospital, but it was because she cared.”

Boulware offered her insight.

“They say if you know your subject you could talk forever, and I could. This Citizen of the Year has been a wonderful role model for me in my high school days, marriage and church life,” Boulware said.

Boulware went on to speak about their association since the 1950s and special events from each decade.

“I’m sure there are many of you out there who could fill in many of the years with things that Frances has quietly done in our community,” Boulware said. “If you drive by her house to see her or leave something, you will seldom find her car in the garage. She is out and doing things, not because she has to, not because she is made to do it, but because she wants to.”

Boulware said she will always value her time with Mills.

“I admire and love this woman and want to be just like her when I grow up,” Boulware said. “What has happened when we have been together will stay in my heart. I will treasure your wisdom, your commitment and friendship forever.”

Farmer used the first letter of Mills’ first and last names to describe her.

“F is the flowers, the ones she brings to adorn our church sanctuary every Sunday for which she signs up to do so, and can be seen in the church flower garden snipping flowers and quickly arranging them for the church on the days that others have signed up to do so but failed.” Farmer said.

“R is responsible, always completing every committee or office project, duty or assignment for which she volunteers, and stepping up when others don’t or can’t do their part.” Farmer said.

“A is always quietly present for every church service, whether Sunday worship, Sunday school, Maundy Thursday, Wednesday breakfasts, monthly ladies’ circle or vacation bible school

“N is never jealous, never boastful, never bears false witness.

“C is a Christian, a good one, who knows that all these works she does means nothing without her belief in Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior.

“E is exemplary, both in Christian love and giving.

“S is saved and shows others the way to be saved by her example,” Farmer said.

“M is mother to her children. Anyone who knows her children knows what a wonderful influence she must have been as a mother,” Farmer said.

“I is an idea person in church planning and simply the ideal person for any task.

“L is leadership given always in kindness and gentleness.

“L is love, for her God, her church, her family, and this community.

“And S is service to her God, her family, and this community,” Farmer said.

Past Citizen of the Year recipients in attendance also included Carol Duke, Bert Breland, Dorothy Miller, Dr. Walter Tisdale, Joe Ball, Frances Dunaway, George Bateman, Tom Knight, the Rev. Bob Adams and Merlin Duke.