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She was a giant among men, a pillar in the media fraternity and a friend to many. But Marie-Therese Barratt Mills was yesterday remembered by her family as a hard-working single parent who moved heaven and earth to provide the best for her three children. Mills, veteran journalist and founder and executive chairman, CEO and editor-in-chief of the Newsday newspaper, died on New Year’s Day, aged 85. She was a former editor-in-chief of the Guardian.
Her funeral, which took place yesterday at the Church of the Nativity, Crystal Stream in Diego Martin, was attended by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Speaker Wade Mark, Communications Minister Gerald Hadeed and former government senator David Abdulah.
Many media practitioners also attended, among them two former Guardian editors-in-chief, Lennox Grant and Jones P Madeira, and the incumbent, Judy Raymond, as well as Guardian Media Ltd deputy managing director Dr Hamid Ghany, and Guardian staff who had worked with Mills. Former Guardian editor Andy Johnson was also present, along with many of the staff of Newsday. Former Guardian news editor Francis Joseph was there in his capacity as press secretary at the Office of the Prime Minister.
In delivering the eulogy, Mills’ eldest daughter Michele described her mother as “both mom and dad” who encouraged all her children to strive to meet their highest educational goals. “For us, her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren she will always be Mummy. She set the highest standards and encouraged us all to pursue them,” Michele said. Mills was also a stickler for punctuality, resulting in Michele, her sister Suzanne and brother Roger having perfect attendance records at school.
Michele said it was significant her mother drew her final breath on January 1, the Solemnity of Mary, a liturgical feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary honouring her divine motherhood to Jesus Christ, according to the Catholic Church. “Mummy was a strong believer in her faith...She was also a great believer in everything happens for a reason and nothing happens before its time,” Michele said.
“To the very end she was the true mother who protected her children from any worry or concern. In spite of her busy schedule she openly showed her children unconditional love, warmth and support.” Fr Gregory Augustine, who delivered the homily, said Mills was a “good shepherd” who gave until the end. Augustine, the principal of Fatima College, urged that Mills’ life be a shining example to others, saying: “An important lesson for us is when we give we never grow weary.
“This woman who gave us her all has left us in a better place. People of faith cannot give into the belief that all is lost. There are still heroic men and women in our midst.” Augustine said he met Mills many years ago and was impressed with the close relationship she had with her grandchildren, some of whom still attend Fatima College. “She had a tremendous influence over her grandchildren...they all had the Therese Mills stamp, the stamp of the good shepherd,” Augustine added.
During the service Fr Clyde Harvey offered a prayer on behalf of the Fourth Estate, and urged journalists to uphold the values symbolised by Mills.
Born on December 14, 1928, Therese Mills began her prolific six-decade-long career as a junior reporter at the Port-of-Spain Gazette in 1945 at the age of 17. In 1956, she joined the Trinidad Guardian as a feature writer. In 1989, she was appointed editor-in-chief at the Trinidad Guardian—the first time a woman had been named at that position at a national newspaper.
She remained at that post until her retirement in 1993, when she joined the Newsday as its founding executive chairman, chief executive officer and editor-in-chief, until her death. Mills, who also published several books for children and young readers, was a foundation member of the Commonwealth Journalists Association and served as executive representative for the Caribbean and was instrumental in the formation of the Media Complaints Council.
She was also a foundation member of the Journalists Association of T&T. Mills served as vice-chairman of the national commission on the status of women appointed by the government in 1975 during the UN International Women’s Year. She also conducted a number of courses for journalists, including one in Guyana in July 1993.
Mills was also the recipient of two national awards in recognition of her services to journalism: the Hummingbird Medal (Silver) in 1987 and the nation’s second highest honour, the Chaconia Medal (Gold) in 2012. She was awarded an honorary doctor of letters degree from the University of the West Indies in 2012.