Our Linnea Rose Mills was born January 12, 2002 in Missoula, Montana. She was named after flowers, Linnaea borealis, the twinflower that grows in the forest, and the Rose, which is also a family name. Linnea was our miracle child. She survived a difficult birth, then a respiratory virus at three weeks old that included a week long stay in the ICU. Against all odds she grew to be strong. Linnea’s legacy is one of compassion and understanding. Her ability to empathize with strangers, friends, and family is one of many qualities she will always be remembered for. She had a great sense of humor, generously laughing even at her Dad’s bad puns. Her brother Nick called them each other’s laugh tracks as jokes were traded back and forth over the years. Her mother loved her quick wit that brought a smile to everyone around her.
At age 8, when the family lived in Bhutan, Asia for 6 months, she and Nick attended a village school and adapted to ancient cultural traditions and Linnea was given the name Wangmo, meaning strong woman. During her middle school years our family lived in North Carolina. There she soaked in the adoring love of her Grandma Klimek and her Grandad and Grammy Mills, her many uncles, aunts, and cousins, and a new set of friends. There she fell in love with the ocean, and became a certified SCUBA diver at the age of 15. She enjoyed ocean diving on shipwrecks and seeing dolphins, sharks and jellyfish. She was one of very few who never got seasick on troubled waters during ocean voyages.
The family returned to Montana for her high school years. At age 16 she participated in a high school exchange program to Australia’s northeast coast and fulfilled her dream of SCUBA diving at the Great Barrier Reef. After graduating from Hellgate/Willard High School in Missoula, she worked hard to save to buy a camping rig and took off on a solo adventure across the west. She and her companion, “Judge, “ her dog, drove >7,000 miles where she hiked in the rainforests of western Washington, went whale watching in Oregon, swam in the ocean in California, crossed Death Valley in the heat of summer, visited the magical rock formations of Sedona, and spent time with wonderful native people on the Navajo Reservation. She consistently encountered the kindness of strangers and friends along the way, and this continued to shape her into the strong, committed, and caring young lady that she was becoming.
Returning from her trip last month, Linnea wrote in her journals about her dreams and hopes for the future, and the promise of her life ahead of her. With politics on everyone’s mind, she had an uncanny ability to listen to different perspectives and she really heard the perspectives of others. And she once again was drawn to the allure of diving, thinking of how this might be applied to make the world a better place for people and the planet.
And so, like the flowers of her names, Linnea Rose Mills blossomed in her 18 years on this earth. With her full life ahead of her and dreams of dedicating her life to helping others, she died tragically during a SCUBA diving accident in Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park, doing what she loved. Linnea is survived by her loving parents Scott and Lisa Mills, her brother Nick, and her grandparents Elizabeth Klimek and John and Joanna Mills, fourteen aunts and uncles and sixteen cousins. And by her many friends, all around the world, that she cherished.
The family suggests memorial donations go to the Linnea Rose Mills Memorial Fund being set up at the Clearwater Credit Union to carry on her interest in supporting teen youth through tough times and preventing teen suicide.