Marie-Therese Barratt Mills: December 14, 1928 – January 1, 2014
Michele Mills, right, daughter of the late Therese Mills, reads the eulogy for her mother in company with her daughter Amy Matthew
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar consoles Roger Mills, son of Newsday founder and editor in chief Therese Mills
Pictures courtesy Newsday
By Marcia Braveboy
Caribbean News Now Senior Correspondent
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad -- Trinidad and Tobago media veteran and journalist extraordinaire Marie-Therese Barratt Mills has been laid to rest.
Media colleagues and journalists, old and young, paid their last respects on Tuesday to the longstanding media practitioner at the church of the Nativity, Crystal Stream, Diego Martin, where a thanksgiving service was held for the life of Therese Mills – as she was fondly known.
Mills died on New Year’s Day, January 1, 2014. She was 85-years-old.
As the winds carried whispers of her death, whispers of what a great person she was were blown back into the hearing of many. She was immediately pronounced the Iron Lady of journalism and the grand dame.
Mills was seen as the quintessential ‘woman journalist’. More than that, she was the mother of three children: Michele, Suzanne and Roger; the grandmother of seven grandchildren and the great-grandmother of two great-grandchildren.
“We will miss you every day,” said her daughter Michele Mills during the eulogy for her mother. “We thank you, mommy, for your constant, selfless care, protection and comfort.”
Michele eulogized the virtues and values of her mother – a disciplined, focused lady who steered clear of distractions and stayed the course.
“She was never late for anything; she had a disdain for disorder. She was a simple woman who stayed out of the limelight. She abhorred all forms of gossip and ole talk. She had a great capacity for forgiveness. She was a great believer that everything happens for a reason and nothing happens before its time.”
The packed church of the Nativity saw veteran journalist-colleagues, junior and senior reporters and politicians among the audience.
Representatives of the state included Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, communications minister Gerald Hadeed, legal affairs minister Prakash Ramadhar, house speaker Wade Mark and Trinidad and Tobago High Commissioner to London Gavin Nicholas. Other dignitaries in attendance were police service commission chairman Professor Ramesh Deosaran, trade unionist David Abdulah and others.
Newsday staff members and several of the newspaper’s journalists attended the service, including senior political and court reporter Andre Bagoo and the paper’s business editor Clint Chan Tack paid their last respects.
Trinidad Guardian newspaper, editor-in-chief Judy Raymond, the newspaper’s senior political reporter Gail Alexander, its editor Suzanne Sheppard and Guardian Media Limited managing director Hamid Ghany were in attendance. From the Trinidad Express, media consultant Lennox Grant attended, along with former Newsday reporter and now CNC3 television executive producer Sampson Nanton.
The audience was served with a message of how Therese Mills gave and gave and gave with a deep sense of care, with no shoddy work and no quick fix.
“She took her time,” noted Father Gregory Augustine, one of the celebrants during his homily at the holy mass thanksgiving service held for Mills at the church of the Nativity.
“Today a lot is heard and spoken about icons and heroes and mentors and exemplars, but for the Kingdom of God the term that is used is shepherd. Like a shepherd, she too taught, guided and showed care, at some length.”
Having blazed the journalism trail for 68 years, another of the celebrants of the holy mass thanksgiving service, Father Clyde Harvey, asked the journalism stalwart how she did it. Mrs Mills replied that she prayed every day, especially for journalists. She said that kept her going. Father Harvey said Mills spoke those words over two years ago when she invited him to bless her home. In turn, Father Harvey invited the congregation to pray for the media fraternity, for all the journalists, including those some might have concerns about.
Mills earned many stripes in her journalism career; she was the first woman to become the editor-in-chief of a leading daily newspaper in Trinidad and Tobago. In the process, Mills covered several major international conferences for the Trinidad Guardian.
She retired from the Guardian in June 1993 and founded the Newsday newspaper. A mere four years after its launch in 1993, the third daily newspaper became Trinidad and Tobago’s biggest selling newspaper; rated the number one daily newspaper for eight consecutive surveys. Mills became the executive chairman of the Newsday in 1997.
At the thanksgiving service held in her honour, Father Augustine said Mills fed and nurtured those who trained under her. “She was an orderly woman who gave her all to whatever she got involved in.” Father Augustine was referring to the mettle of the woman and the tasks she undertook based on her life achievements.
Mills was a founding member of the Journalism Association of Trinidad and Tobago and a founding member of the Commonwealth Journalists Association in Cyprus and served as a CJA executive representative for the Caribbean.
The leading journalist served as vice chairman of the National Commission on the Status of Women, a post to which she was appointed by the government of Trinidad and Tobago in 1975 during the UN International Women’s Year. She also conducted a number of courses for journalists, including one in Guyana in July 1993.
In 2012, the University of the West Indies conferred the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters (DLitt)) on Mills. That same year the state recognised her contribution and awarded her the Chaconia Medal (Gold) -- her second national award. In 1987 she received the Humming Bird Medal, also for her contribution to journalism.
Mills was also honoured for dedicated service to journalism in 1997 by the Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago (MATT).
Considering this descriptive resume, Father Augustine concurred that many ate at the table of Therese Mills, likening her acts to biblical teaching of how Jesus fed five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish. He said “the woman who gave her all and left us in a better place” is a person of the Kingdom. Father Augustine believes Mills’ life and death influenced everyone and sees her achievement as an inspirational lesson – showing it is never too late to achieve one’s goal in life. The country is a better place and is all the more hopeful because of her, Father Augustine said.
“She will enter the eternal Kingdom and she will meet the Almighty God whom she worshiped so fervently for all these years; may she rest in peace.”
The service was graced with a few of Mills’ favourite classical hymns such as What a Friend We Have in Jesus, Blessed Assurance, The Lord Is My Shepherd, How Great Thou Art and All I Ask of You.
At the request of the family, the final prayers and burial was done privately with family members alone present.