Coping with Grief
We would like to offer our sincere support to anyone coping with grief. Enter your email below for our complimentary daily grief messages. Messages run for up to one year and you can stop at any time. Your email will not be used for any other purpose.
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Blissfully retired New York City public school teacher, Curtis Alumni Association chairman, licensed real estate agent and general “Man About Town” Trevor Mills died last week after complications of a stroke. The well-rounded Staten Island native was 80.
With a mirthful chortle, Mills stood out in the North Shore food and drink scene. Restaurant jaunts over the past decades brought him to Adobe Blues and Blue of Livingston. West Brighton was a particularly happy place for Mills, standing elbow-to-elbow with fellow patrons of Jody’s Club Forest, The Staaten, plus the former Afternoone’s and American Grill.
Over the years, Mills joined “The Hate Club” by osmosis, a jocular name for an opinionated group of long-time Duffy’s regulars who disliked pretty much everything.
Michele Froehlich-Perosi served Mills for years as a prior owner of the West Brighton pub.
She observed, “He knew everybody. He truly was a ‘Man About Town.’ He melded into the crowd in his own way. He was definitely a Forest Avenue restaurant-bar icon. He was always up to date on what was happening. He should have had a column in the Advance — ‘I don’t want to say, but...’”
Beans and Leaves was a favored hang out for Mills. Some of its coffee shop customers might say their politics didn’t always align with his, although he certainly added to the routine morning buzz.
Beans owner Megan Coppola said, “Trevor always knew how to make you feel like a welcomed presence to his day. And you were always his most vital item finder as he was constantly losing all of his things.”
Coppola added, “Upon his leaving the shop you always knew he’d be back looking for a key or wallet, poking fun at himself along the way. He would always give you a big ‘hi!’ with a huge smile on his face and my favorite run-ins with him were at Adobe Blues for his nighttime ‘routine.’ He would chat with you for hours, always jovial, big laughs and always happy to be there.”
MEMORIES OF STATEN ISLAND
As a “Bengal Tiger” graduate of PS 29 in Castleton Corners, Mills often shared his memories from childhood.
He recalled a school tradition from the 1950s called “May Fete” (pronounced May Fate) where children danced around a maypole.
Trevor Mills, as chairman of the Curtis High School Alumni Association, just made a donation to the Physics Department, jazz band and Record Office in 2013. From left are Kaela Ferris, Dana Silverstri, Theadora Hadzi and physcis teacher Alia Jackson. (Staten Island Advance File Photo)Pamela Silvestri
Mills told the Advance in 2005, ”We walked to Clove Lakes Park. Each elementary school had their own maypole with their own colors. PS 29 had yellow and blue ribbons. Children from the whole grade would participate and certain people were selected to dance the maypole dance.”
He remembered the scene vividly.
“Picture this,” he said with great intensity, emphasizing the words with his hands. “The lawn with the maypoles and the colors of the ribbons and the white dresses — it was gorgeous.”
Mills often recounted tales of life on Staten Island in the 1950s with its many farms. He talked of the “Strawberry Man” who sold fruit from his truck each May.
Mills reenacted the scene for the borough’s paper of record in a bellowing voice: ”The strawberry man yelled ‘Strawberries! Strawberries!’ as he walked up one street and down the other. They were so fresh! Strawberries were left with the stems on. You see them in plastic today, but back then they were in little wooden baskets.”
Mills said that his mother served the strawberries arranged very simply on a plate. He followed up the recollection with the kind of earnest comment for which he was known.
He stated, “She wasn’t an exotic cook.”
Trevor was an active parishioner at Christ Church in New Brighton.
A RENNAISANCE MAN
Advance/SILIVE.com senior opinion writer Tom Wrobleski shared, “Trevor was my fifth-grade teacher at PS 55 in Eltingville. Even then I knew I wanted to be a writer of some kind and I remember him always encouraging me to do that, to keep writing and to keep reading. We all have teachers who influenced us that we remember for the rest of our lives. Trevor was one of those for me.”
Wrobleski added, “I reconnected with him years later, when I was the political writer for the Advance and he was involved in borough politics. It was great to get to know Trevor (or Mr. Mills, as I still always thought of him) as an adult and to tell him how much his encouragement had meant to me. He was an erudite gent and he’ll be missed.”
Forever Friends: From the left, Anthony Whalen (Livingston), Larry Seaver (New Jersey), Angela Astarifa (Jimmy Max waitress), Guido Scalia (Richmond) and Trevor Mills (Dongan Hills) enjoy a 50/50 donation lunch at Jimmy Max in 2010. (Staten Island Advance File Photo)Pamela Silvestri
Long-time pal and fellow real estate sales man Tony Whalen said, “When I was contemplating leaving my job at then-St.Vincent’s Medical Center he told me about an opportunity with the Board of Education that I should consider teaching special education.”
The rest was history for Whalen, who enjoyed a fruitful DOE career, then met success in the real estate business. Whalen returned the favor as mentor when Mills expressed an interest in selling homes.
But the New York City teaching gig provided Mills enormous tentacles in the community. Doc Hennigan’s owner Dr. Craig Campbell knew him socially through his parents who also taught. The Mills-Campbell connection became solidified via the pool at The Fountains in Sunnyside.
There, Dr. Campbell lifeguarded. He said, “Trevor and I got very close, very quickly. He confided in me that he always dreamed of being a lifeguard, but he knew at 37 that it wouldn’t happen.”
Nonetheless, Dr. Campbell talked him into taking the course once a week for the whole summer, replete with a written and practical exam. By Labor Day when the water turned chilly, Dr. Campbell said, “I made Trevor do all the maneuver’s and rescues that the 16-year-olds were doing...and he passed!”
Mills was equally as stunned. He said to Dr. Campbell, “I’m 37! I’ll never work as a lifeguard. Why were you so hard on me?”
Dr. Campbell admitted, “I wanted him to have his legitimate full lifeguard license. Then he understood! This began a 44-year friendship. God rest the soul of a wonderful, intelligent, eclectic human being.”
‘BORED’ OF EDUCATION
Mills entertained jabs about his public school career as a teacher and laughed heartily when referred to as the “President of the Albert Shanker Fan Club.” Shanker was teachers’ union president.
Linda and Nick Dianto communed on Friday nights with Mills. They said, “Trevor was very proud of his accomplishments in the community, most importantly his alma mater, Curtis High School!”
The Diantos expressed their relief over Mills finally finding a replacement in his illustrious Alumni Association post. While he enjoyed it immensely, the role became overwhelming in later years between social commitments.
The Curtis Alumni Association hosted its “All Class Reunion” in 2008 at The Staaten, West Brighton. Attending were, from the left, Trevor Mills, of the Class of 1960 and association vice president; Aurelia Curtis, former principal of Curtis; Inez Okstel Palladino, of the Class of 1956, and John Borkowski, of the Class of 1932. (Staten Island Advance File Photo)Pamela Silvestri
Retired Judge Phil Straniere said it was that very Curtis alum group that reconnected him to Mills. He said, “I first met Trevor in the early 1960s when he and my brother, Robert, were involved with the Young Republicans and I would tag along to campaign events...Trevor’s commitment to Curtis and its students has held the association together over the last few years.”
Trevor Mills at a Lighthouse Museum event, where he was delighted to have met Her Royal Highness, Princess Anne. (Courtesy of Linda Dianto)Pamela Silvestri
Mills also served on the National Lighthouse Museum’s Advisory Board, which Dianto leads. She shared, “One of his fondest memories was meeting Her Royal Highness, Princess Anne last year.”
She concluded, “He was very knowledgeable and truly a character…we will miss his hearty laughter and enthusiasm for life!”
Journalist Jim Callaghan called Mills a part-prankster when he wasn’t being serious. He remembers bumping into Mills with his friend Fred Hoyer at the Kings Arms after a raucous GOP convention in 1986. It was Guy Molinari against the incumbent George Hart.
“Trevor always greeted me with a big smile and a warm handshake, even though we disagreed on many issues of the day,” said Callaghan.
Mills shared a charity fundraising idea that Hoyer and he conjured up: Callaghan could stand in a carnival booth and charge people $100 for every punch in the nose. Mills said he was allowed to bob and weave to avoid permanent damage.
Callaghan said, “As usual, discussions with Trevor nearly always included a huge dollop of humor.”
Mills is survived by sisters, Victoria Meiselbach and Audrey McGuire; four nephews, Keith Meiselbach, Eric Meiselbach, Brian McGuire, Kevin McGuire, and one niece, Kimberly Calabrese, plus a grand-niece, Juliana Calabrese, and grand-nephew Eric Meiselbach Jr.
A wake will be held Monday, Dec. 4 at Martin-Hughes Funeral Home at 530 Narrows Rd. South from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The funeral service will be on Tuesday, Dec. 5 at 10 a.m. at Christ Episcopal Church at 76 Franklin Ave., New Brighton.
A burial will follow at Ocean View Cemetery. A reception will take place at 1 p.m. at Christ Episcopal Church.
Reprinted from Staten Island Advance