Walter "Wally" Mills
Longtime Aspenite Walter Bevan Mills died May 7 at Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs. “Wally” was born to Walter E. and Frances Bevan Mills on Sept. 12, 1920, in Chicago. As a young man, Wally attended Culver Military Academy in Culver, Ind., and went on to college at the University of Arizona. He also attended law school at DePaul University in Chicago. It was at U of A that Wally broke records swimming the butterfly stroke.
Wally later joined the Air Force, and while stationed in Sherman, Texas, he met and wooed Bonnie June Roberts, a beauty who possessed considerable Texas charm. They were married in New Orleans in 1947. A year later, the couple made a ski trip to Aspen at the suggestion of a Chicago neighbor, Walter Paepcke. So impressed with the lifestyle and local characters, Wally and Bonnie moved their young family there in 1954.Wally designed and built the first nine holes of the Aspen Golf Course and developed the land around it, the Snowbunny Subdivision. He later built the Aspen Country Club, now known as Truscott Place. Wally and Bonnie asked Fritz Benedict to design their house on the golf course. The home, inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright, was one of the first “designer” homes in Aspen. It had radiant heat, indigenous flagstone walls and huge windows, all unheard of at the time. Wally enjoyed flying his Beechcraft Bonanza. He spent a good deal of time in elegant Havana, Cuba, brokering pineapples for the family produce business before the rule of Fidel Castro.
In exchange for allowing aviation signals on his land by Shale Bluffs, Wally received free tickets on Continental wherever they flew. As a result, he spent much of his time flying to different cities, enjoying the freedom of being able to just grab a seat on a plane. Wally had a terrible ski accident on Ruthie’s Run in 1956, breaking his leg so severely it required reconstructive surgery at the Mayo Clinic. He spent five years in a leg cast. Despite this setback, he remained a strong swimmer. He once saved two local boys from drowning in the big pond on the Aspen Golf Course. They had crafted a makeshift raft which suddenly sunk. Wally spied them flailing in the water as he was driving along Highway 82. He sped over, jumped in the pond and dragged both sputtering children to shore at one time.
Throughout his life, Wally had an abiding love for animals. He purchased Mill Haven Farm in Paris, Ky., in 1998. He bred thoroughbred horses there, most notably a Triple Crown nominee. Wally moved to Denver in 2004 and spent the last few years with his longtime friend, Polly Tompson. Wally will be laid to rest in Chicago alongside his father and grandparents. He was loved and will be missed dearly.Walter B. Mills is survived by his children, Bonnie Mills Rush of Boulder, Colo.; and twins Jann Mills of New Castle, Colo., and Joel Mills of Clearwater, Fla.; and one grandchild, Allison Rush of Boulder. A service will be held at the Denver Country Club at a date to be announced. In lieu of flowers, the family asks for donations to be sent to the Thoroughbred Retirement Fund, 4089 Iron Works Parkway, Lexington, KY 40511. Farnum-Holt Funeral Home in Glenwood Springs is handling arrangements.
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