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Gayland R. "Mike" Mills  WWII


April 7, 1920 - January 25, 2010.

Gayland Ranson "Mike" Mills, of Provo, formerly of Tempe, Arizona, died Monday, Jan. 25, 2010 at age 89 from congestive heart failure. Born April 7, 1920, in Golconda, Nevada, the second of three sons to Roy Charles and Mary Ranson Mills. Graduated in 1939 from Pocatello High School, Idaho, where he lettered in five sports. He came to BYU on a football scholarship, and was soon known as "Iron Mike". He was selected First Team All-Conference for three years. In 1941, his BYU team tied Utah 6-6, with Mike carrying in the only team touchdown. In 1942, his Cougars beat Utah 12-7, the first time BYU beat the Utes in modern school history. Mike was then voted BYU's only candidate for All-American that year. He was baptized a member of the L.D.S. Church, then met and married his sweetheart, Margaret Vance, of Tempe, Arizona in 1941. He answered his nation's call to service in '43, sent to England and landed with the AAA 413th gun Battalion as a sharp shooter in the second wave at Normandy on Omaha Beach, D-Day, June 6, 1944. Mike's athletic skills helped save lives that "Longest Day", as communication lines were disrupted, he served as a "runner", carrying messages and laying wire along the beach zig-zag style, dodging enemy fire, until our boys broke through Hitler's "Atlantic Wall". By the time the war in Europe ended, Mike had served in five major campaigns. After the war, Mike played football for BYU one more season and graduated in 1946. He was drafted by three pro teams, the New York Giants, Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers. He later wrote, "Because I was married and had two children, I decided not to accept any offer to play football and concentrated on staying home and raising my family." Mike then coached at his old Alma Mater, Pocatello High School for three years. Moving his family to Arizona, he began his career in the automobile business. Prior to retiring he worked for Coulter Cadillac for 20 years. Mike's church callings included scoutmaster, home teacher and priesthood pianist. He could play not only the piano, but several instruments by ear, sharing this talent over many years. He was a member of the Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge in Arizona and received the Medal of Freedom from the French Government in 2002, for his service liberating France in World War II. Mike and Margaret moved back to Provo in January 2006, where he was inducted into the BYU Athletic Hall of Fame and was one of five presented the Freedom Festival Award in 2007. Mike is preceded in death by his parents, older brother, Roy Jr. and grandson, Samuel Mills Ashworth. He leaves behind his loving wife of 68 years, Margaret Vance Mills, and their four children, Sherry Phair (Gary), Charlene Ashworth (Brent), all of Provo, Scott Mills of Salt Lake City, and LeRoy Mills (Charmiene) of San Antonio, Texas, his brother Bill Mills of Mill Valley, California, 15 grandchildren and 29 great-grand-children. Funeral services will be held Monday, February 1, 2010, at 11:00 a.m. in the Rock Canyon Ward Chapel, 3050 Mojave Lane, in Provo. Friends and family may call Sunday evening from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Sundberg-Olpin Mortuary, 495 South State Street in Orem and also Monday from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. at the ward chapel. Interment will be in the Provo City Cemetery, where full military rites will be provided by VFW District #4. Condolences may be sent to the family at 

Published in Deseret News on Jan. 30, 2010.

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