Paul Gerald Mills, 89, Indianapolis, IN, died July 1, 2017. He was born on May 19, 1928 in West Newton, IN to the late Sumner and Lela Mills.
Survivors include his wonderful friend and companion in his later years, Nancy Dangel, and his children, Donald Mills (Nancy), Beverly Mills-Novoa (Avelino), Tamra Johnson (Scott), Diane Kelly (Christopher), Susan MacHolda (Edward), Karen McDonald (Scott), seventeen grandchildren and two great-grandsons. He is also survived by his brother, Eugene Mills (Dotty).
He is preceded in death by his beloved wife of 54 years, Arzella T. Mills and their first-born son, Paul Gerald Mills, Jr.; parents, Sumner and Lela Mills; and brother, John Mills.
Gerald Mills had an illustrious career of over 50 years in the retailing industry. After graduating from Earlham College in 1949, he began his retailing career at the L.S. Ayres Company, the dominant retailer in Indiana at the time. He began his career selling shoes and progressed to President and CEO by the early 1970's. His tenure at L.S. Ayres included authoring the core merchandise values and strategies for Ayr-Way Stores, a highly successful upscale discount retail business that served as a model for the Target chain of stores well known throughout the country today.
In 1978, the Dayton Hudson Corporation in Minneapolis, which owned several department store regional companies as well as the rapidly growing Target chain, recruited Gerald as President and CEO of Dayton's Department Stores and later designated him Chairman as well. He was subsequently promoted to Chairman, President & CEO of J.L. Hudson Stores in Detroit, Michigan and, in 1983, appointed Executive Vice President of the Dayton Hudson Corporation and Chairman and CEO of all Dayton Hudson Department Stores, including Dayton's, Hudson's, John A. Brown and Diamond's. In 2000, the Dayton Hudson Corporation changed its corporate name to Target Corporation.
In 1985, Gerald retired from the Dayton Hudson Corporation and soon after, moved back to Indianapolis, IN to begin the Arzella Stores, seven specialty retail shops for women. From 1986 to 1996, Gerald and Arzella were involved in the family business, as well as civic, church and community works. Gerald served on the Board of Trustees for Earlham College for several decades, including ten as Chairman of its Board of Trustees. He continued as an active Honorary Lifetime Trustee until the last few years of his life and received Earlham's Distinguished Service Award as well as an Honorary Doctorate of Laws.
In 1996, Gerald took on one last career challenge and became Chairman and CEO of Jacobson's Stores in Michigan. After retiring in 2002, Gerald and Arzella traveled and enjoyed family until Arzella's death in 2003.
Gerald found love a second time with his wonderful friend and devoted partner, Nancy Dangel. They traveled the world for several years and Nancy lovingly cared for Gerald as his health declined.
Despite his many career accomplishments, Gerald once wrote that he wanted to be remembered most as a loving and devoted husband/partner, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. He was a humble man who, at his core, was devoted to four areas of service throughout his life: his Quaker faith, his family, his work and Earlham College.
Visitation will be held from 4:00-8:00 p.m. on Thursday, July 13th at the Leppert Mortuary, 740 East 86th Street, Indianapolis, IN 46240, Phone: (317) 844-3966.
Funeral services will be held on Friday, July 14th, 2017 at 10:00 a.m. in First Friends Church, 3030 East Kessler Blvd., Indianapolis, IN, 46220-9203. Interment will follow in the West Newton Cemetery.
Memorial contributions, in lieu of flowers, can be made to the Gerald and Arzella Mills Endowed Scholarship for the pursuit of management studies at Earlham College, 801 National Road West, Richmond, Indiana 47374-4095 (www.earlham.edu) or call 765-983-1313.
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Don, I am so sorry for your loss. Hugs and prayers to you!
I had the pleasure of working for Mr. Mills as a young woman at J.L. Hudson's and at Dayton-Hudson's, once the department stores combined. I worked in the retail industry for over 20 years and Mr. Mills was one of only a handful of fine men and true gentlemen that I can say I worked with. I never fail to mention him when I discuss my career in retail. I have many fond memories of him. He left his imprint on many people...many more than I suspect he knew.
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