Remembering a 'company man' who always delivered
By Rupert Howell
BATESVILLE – There was an unusual hush around the mail room Thursday night.
Long-time Panolian third pressman and route distributor/driver Rick Mills had passed away earlier in the day.
His co-workers knew immediately something was amiss when he was late for work and didn't answer his phone. After locating his truck at home, Panola County Sheriff Dennis Darby was notified and soon found our Rick, appearing to be comfortably resting in his recliner.
There was no sign of stress or pain—we assume he passed away instantly. Coroner Gracie Grant-Gulledge said he died just a few hours earlier of a massive heart attack.
Rick was a "company man." Anyone who owns or operates a small business can appreciate that type of worker. Whatever the job whatever the time of day, Rick answered the call.
His job encompassed a lot of his social life. Although he comes from an extended family with hundreds of local blood kin, he also had a work family that spent many hours together.
And, yes they "fussed and cussed" just like family.
One fellow employee, Ashley Crutcher wrote, "Seven years ago yesterday God brought you into my life. We fought, you'd apologize, we laughed and then we'd fight all over again! You didn't know I loved you like a dad! I'm sorry I never told you! Seven years of tears and laughter that I will never forget! I love you my friend and I won't ever forget you!"
Rick also loved his football and would have his cell phone and radio or TV turned toward the South Panola Tigers and the Ole Miss Rebels.
Rick idolized his older brother David and loved and treated his nephew J.D. like his own son. He talked about the annual Mills family reunion for days and liked to tell the unknowing of all his blood relations.
While not known as an avid outdoorsman, he still bagged deer on a regular basis, usually in a Panolian delivery van and sometimes in his personal vehicle.
Rick had not been in good health lately having some heart issues. After totaling the second van I decided he no longer needed to drive at night. After the third, we moved him to inside jobs.
But whenever a new driver needed to be trained, Rick was always available to navigate them through the dark, rural areas of Panola County late at night where newspapers where expected to be delivered.
I love the people I work with here, but I try to find excuses to get away from the office.
With Rick, it was just the opposite. He wanted to be here. He wanted to work and be around his work family. He knew "the ropes" and you could bet he would be here and he would be on time.
Except on Thursday. He didn't make it. His pressman brothers were concerned and jittery and wouldn't be settled until we found Rick's whereabouts.
Rest easy my friend, Rick. Your buddies were looking after you because we all loved you. And be assured, you are and will be missed.
Rupert Howell is editor of The Panolian in Batesville.