Stewart Harrison Mills passed on from this earth last Sunday, October 25, at his home in Santa Barbara. Stewart was the son of Jim Mills and Mary McLaughlin and brother to James, Patrick, and Steven Mills. He was born in Carmel Valley on August 16, 1986. He graduated from Summit High School in Bend, Oregon, in 2004 and UC Santa Barbara in 2009. His last place of employment was The Santa Barbara Independent, where he had just started working as a sales representative.
In his short time on this planet, Stewart left a remarkable impression among friends, family, colleagues, and acquaintances that cannot be overstated. People would marvel at his positive attitude, easy smile, and sheer enthusiasm and appreciation for life. Stewart had an uncanny ability to form meaningful relationships with nearly everyone he met. The outpouring of love and support on his Facebook page is a testament to the kind of human being he was: smart, steadfast, loyal, fun, and, most important, full of love and empathy for others.
Stewart loved his mother to the moon and back and would either talk to or text her every day. He was a crackerjack mixologist, working as a bartender and server at several high-end restaurants in Santa Barbara and San Diego. All of Stewart’s friends know of his passion for rock music, especially heavy metal, which you could often hear blasting from the speakers of his beat-up Honda Element as he drove by, banging his head and throwing up the “horns” with a big smile on his face. He was also a very good metal drummer who would spend hours listening to songs to get the intricate syncopations right, jamming with his brother Patrick and his good friend Sean during their college years. He was a dog lover who most recently formed a strong bond with his roommate’s golden retriever, Kaya.
Stewart’s passing has left a huge hole in the lives of those who knew him best. He was a truly unique and special young man who left us far too soon, but his legacy of friendship, compassion, and lust for life will live on in our hearts forever. There will be a celebration of life in Stewart’s honor this Saturday, November 7, at 11 a.m. at Manning Park. If you’d like to attend, please RSVP to the open invite on Facebook so his family knows how many people to expect (facebook.com/events/115936268767580). —James Mills
Some people come into our lives with a spark and verve that make us feel like we’ve always known them. Stewart Mills was such a person. Such a friend. He came into the lives of those of us at The Santa Barbara Independent very recently, in August of this year. But in the two short months that we knew him, he touched us with his enthusiasm, his positive energy, his compassionate nature, and his willingness to learn, take risks, and help out.
I’ve hired several people in my career because I just plain liked them so much. Stewart was one of those people. He started every day with a smile and met every new challenge with an open heart and an eagerness to try new things and give them his all.
We have a pretty tight-knit family here at The Independent, and Stewart fit right in. In addition to his role as a sales representative, he volunteered to help with projects and parties and just about everything that was presented to him. He wrote me a note on the night of his first day at work here simply to let me know what a great day it had been, how supportive everyone was, and how much he enjoyed the work. I thought it was a kind gesture and thanked him for the note. But he didn’t stop there. Stewart wrote me notes almost every week to thank me, give kudos to his coworkers, and reiterate how much he appreciated the environment.
Earlier this month, several of us had a chance to travel to Monterey for a sales training meeting with other newspaper companies. I’ve always loved the opportunity to travel with colleagues: to get a different perspective, to see people out of their usual environment. This trip was short but exceptional. It was refreshing to see Stewart interact with a whole range of new people, and it was evident that he could hold his own with these seasoned professionals. But even more special was the opportunity to meet Stewart’s brother James and James’s fiancée, Jess. Stewart had told me earlier that James was “the coolest person on the planet,” and seeing the two of them together, it was evident how much Stewart loved James and his entire family.
Stewart grabbed hold of every day and squeezed it for all it was worth. He was quick-witted, astute, optimistic, and empathetic. These all happen to be important qualities for salespeople, but they’re also important qualities in life. Stewart was living life to the fullest, and we were lucky to have had him in our midst for the brief but full time that we did. We were charmed by him and enriched by his influence. More than anything, we were fortunate to get to know him and to call him our friend. We miss you, Stewart. —Sarah Sinclair