When she was 10 years old, Betty asked her father if he believed in heaven. He replied he wasn't sure but just in case, he would live his life as if there were. So did Betty.
Betty passed from this world in Bismarck on August 15, 2023.
A memorial service will be held at 11:00 a.m., Tuesday, August 29, at Parkway Funeral Service, 2330 Tyler Pkwy, Bismarck.
Burial will be held at 3:00 PM at the North Dakota Veterans Cemetery, Mandan.
Betty Mills was born on July 21, 1926 to Leonard and Crystal (Sletmoen) Lidstrom. She grew up on a sheep ranch south of Glen Ullin, attended a one-room school for the first eight grades and graduated from Glen Ullin high school as the Valedictorian. Then this small town girl left for the University of Minnesota where she loved the learning, the big city, and her lifelong friends -- the Comstock Cuties. When she was just a year from graduating her father died suddenly and she returned home to help. There she met the new young Attorney in town, William R. Mills, her husband, roommate, and as she called him, "ever lovin".
To get married they hitchhiked to Montana where a minister picked them up, married them with his wife as witness and a dachshund as the choir. Together they lived in San Francisco, and Washington, DC then returned in 1948 to Bismarck where she has resided ever since, much to the benefit of us all.
Here's how she lived her life. She loved books almost more than her children (we never made her choose). With four small children and working part-time in her husband's law office she co-authored a book, "Mind if I Differ" in 1964, and then went back to college and graduated with honors. She served on the Bismarck Public Library Board, even helping haul books to the current location shopping cart by shopping cart. Often she said her dream was to be locked in a library with a sack lunch and she effectively achieved that dream in her homes -- so many books.
She was a founding member of the Unitarian Fellowship in Bismarck, on the Unitarian Universalist Prairie Star District Board, and then went on to serve eight years on the National Board for the Unitarian-Universalist Denomination. In addition, she gave more than 50 sermons all over the country. Because of her sheer determination public broadcasting came to North Dakota. Also, she served on the regional U.S. Civil Rights Commission, the Bismarck Planning Commission, North Dakota Educational Broadcasting Council, North Dakota Legislative Compensation Commission, North Dakota Advisory Committee to the U. S. Civil Rights Commission, North Dakota Supreme Court's Public Trust and Confidence Implementation Committee, and was a charter member of the Bismarck League of Women Voters.
Because of her exquisite writing, once called the master of the metaphor, for over 20 years she wrote columns for the Bismarck Tribune. She also wrote a monthly column for Inspired Woman magazine. At the age of 80 she joined the Alternatives to Violence Project helping inmates at the state penitentiary. Doing so meant spending many weekends each year behind the bars in the penitentiary itself.
Much of her work was recognized as she received the Pearce Award from library, the Liberty Bell Award from the North Dakota State Bar Association, the Distinguished Service Award from the University of Mary and recognition as a Leading Lady from the North Dakota Women's Business Center.
But she also had other less recognized accomplishments. She was the Roosevelt Grade school carnival fortune teller, could back up a bundling wagon to a thrashing machine, hunted rattle snakes, taught Sunday school, out fished her husband, was a great cook, wrote a cookbook, played bridge, cross-stitched, sewed clothing, took classes in drape making, gardened, was a brownie and cub scout leader, rode in a hot air balloon, travelled the world and spent summers for over 70 years at Lake Tschida.
On the top of all of this because she was funny, tirelessly optimistic and a first rate listener she fostered friendship with people of all ages. She is beloved.
What her children and grandchildren know best, however, is that even with all this time devoted to making the world a better place, her finest skill by far was how she loved and raised her family. We lucky few are-- her children: Randy Mills Meyer (John), Sherry Mills Moore (Tim), William L. Mills (Lisa), and Nancy Mills Panvini; her grandchildren: Kathryn Aitchison (Dana), Kalen Mills, William Stiller (Amanda), Charles Moore (Lauren), Justin Mills (Jenny), Nicholas Panvini (Ali), Sam Panvini (Kara); her great-grandchildren: Tess, August and Grayson; her much beloved nieces and nephews and her bonus progeny: Tom, Sue, Jason, Brenda, Kindiss, Bobbi, Alicia, Kelsey, Steve, Jane, Pete, Cole, Tom, Zolea, Mac, Alysha, Ashley, Hailie, Sandi and Sharon. She was predeceased by her husband, her parents, her brother, Ole and sister, Virginia, and 29 first cousins.
Betty leaves behind a better world and a legacy of love. At the end, Betty said, "I only regret I cannot write a sermon or column about this experience." She would want contributions in her memory to the Bismarck Public Library or to the Bismarck Mandan Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship.
The family thanks all the people who have loved and cared for her, especially the kind and caring staff at Touchmark, Hospice of the Red River Valley and the Bismarck-Mandan Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship.