Earl Mills and his wife Nancy unveil the new name of the Newfound track, The Mills Oval, or The MO, at a ceremony on Saturday. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
June 23, 2014BRISTOL — If there's any place that Earl Mills feels at home, it's Newfound Regional High School.
And now, one part of the school will forever bear his name.
Mills retired at the end of this school year after 44 years of teaching and former students, colleagues and community members gathered to honor him on Saturday, June 21.
While he has finished his teaching career, Mills revealed to those gathered on the Newfound track that he would be returning to help with senior projects and would also be continuing as track and cross country coach next season.
And it was only fitting that Mills chose a track meet as his retirement party, though it also could've been just about any sport, as Newfound Athletic Director Pete Cofran pointed out Mills had coached more than 80 teams in his time at the Bristol school.
Former (and current) Bears and family members lined the track to compete in the 100, 200, 400, 800 and 1,600 meter races, with categories for those who wanted to walk and those that wanted a little more competition. Everyone received a ribbon and Mills took to the track for a few of the events, with former athletes and colleagues jogging alongside him.
Meanwhile, on the infield, Mills' fellow science teacher Paul Dumont was hard at work on the grill, cooking up all sorts of good food, assisted by his wife.
However, the big event of the day was saved for last, after everyone had devoured the burgers, hot dogs, baked beans, cake and other treats. The big event was the dedication of the track in Mills' name.
Cofran took the microphone first and noted that it had been his pleasure working with Mills over the past seven years. He also read a note from former Newfound AD Al Blakely, who was in attendance early in the event but had to leave prior to the ceremony.
Blakely commended the dedication of the track as a great tribute to Mills and his wife Nancy.
Former Newfound athlete and current boys' track coach Mike LaPlume also took the microphone for a couple of minutes.
"He was always so much more," LaPlume said of Mills the coach. "He was like another father, he gave me so much more than just running and biology.
"As far as I'm concerned, this has always been the Mills Oval," LaPlume pointed out.
Former boys' track coach Chris Duggan, who worked side by side with Mills for many years prior to his own retirement from coaching after last year, called, "The final result on Mills Oval, with a winning time of 44 years."
He then made sure he pointed out a mistake the two of them made one day when they were painting the track, bringing out a number of laughs from those in attendance. But he also had plenty of seriousness as well.
"There's been nothing finer in my life than to coach with Earl Mills," Duggan said. "Period."
Cofran than pointed out that a sign will be erected at some point bearing the name Mills Oval. The plan is to have it out near Route 104 so that cars driving by can see it, while it will also be visible to athletes on the track and visitors in the stands. However, there was no official sign available for Saturday's unveiling, so Mills and his wife unveiled an easel with photos instead.
"There are certain people that are special in my life and you are those people," he said. "You are all 24/7 people," he added noting they could count on him 24/7 and he knew he could count on them the same.
"The key thing with coaching is to have fun," Mills said. "And today was a blast.
"This is quite an honor," he continued.
He also pointed out that staying around the school will certainly be good for him.
"The key is to be around kids, you stay young," he said.
Cofran than brought a little more humor to the day, presenting Mills with a gift. What looked like a chair was actually a commode chair, with a special cover and a curtained shelf underneath.
Joshua Spaulding can be reached at 569-3126 or firstname.lastname@example.org