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Published: Tuesday, 4/6/2010

Man owned Perrysburg hardware store 65 years

BY JIM SIELICKI
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Robert W. Mills, a longtime hardware store owner and a descendant of one of the earliest families in Perrysburg, died Friday at Kingston Residence of Perrysburg. Mr. Mills, 92, suffered from dementia, his wife, Nancy, said.

Mr. Mills was born Jan. 10, 1918, in Perrysburg to Charles and Lillian Mills. His great-grandfather, George Mills, arrived in Perrysburg in 1850, said Mrs. Mills, who researched the genealogy of her late husband's family.

Mr. Mills owned Mills Pro Hardware and Supply for nearly 65 years. He paid $1,300 for the business while serving in the military during World War II, Mrs. Mills said.

"He bought it from another man before he ever got out of the Army, so he asked him to please stay until he was discharged," she said.

In 1946, the hardware store was at 214 Louisiana Ave. in uptown Perrysburg. He moved the business in 1964 to its current site a block away when a larger building became available.

He outlasted several other hardware stores by promoting service to his customers, Mrs. Mills said. "He was very successful."

As a staff sergeant during the war, he supervised engine repairs of fighter planes at air bases throughout the United States. Bad sight in his right eye kept him from being sent overseas, she said.

Mr. Mills married Dorothy Eckel, his first wife, in 1941 when she visited him while he was serving on a base out West, Mrs. Mills said.

Mr. Mills retired at age 65, shortly after the death of his first wife.

He married Nancy Wyagant on May 18, 1983.

He had several partners in operating the store. The hardware store's current owner, Bruce Brigode, was of his partners.

"It was always good working for Bob," Mr. Brigode said. "You knew with him it was going to be right, and it was going to be true."

His oldest son, Robert, Jr., worked for his father after studying to become a teacher and became a partner until his death in 1982, Mrs. Mills said.

His second son, Michael, worked there as a teenager and during college, but decided it was not what he wanted to do in life.

"He was a pretty easygoing fellow," Michael Mills said, but his father expected his sons to work hard. "It was all business, so we didn't horse around."

Michael Mills recalls his father putting in long hours at the store, often extending to 15 hours a day.

The younger Mills said he considered entering the business but "took a different direction" in his life, a decision that his father apparently agreed with.

Mr. Mills was an avid golfer and held membership certificate No. 2 at Valleywood Golf Club, which he joined in 1959, his wife said.

Mr. Mills is survived by his wife, Nancy; son, Michael; three grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

A funeral Mass is set for 10:15 a.m. today at St. Rose Catholic Church. Witzler-Shank Funeral Home handled arrangements.

The family suggests memorials to Way Public Library's large-print book department, Kingston Residence's memory care unit, or the 577 Foundation.

Contact: Jim Sielicki at:

jsielicki@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050



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