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Civic Center offers free skating to honor memory of namesake, Millar

HOULTON, Maine — John A. Millar II would have turned 100 years old in 2018 and to honor his memory a free day of ice skating was held on Jan. 6 at the Civic Center that bears his name.

The rink was filled with youngsters enjoying their time on the ice, eating concessions and listening to the music blaring over the public address speakers. A birthday cake was enjoyed by many of the youngsters and one lucky skater, Gabe Foss, won a $100 prize.

To many, Millar was known as “Mr. Hockey” for his tireless dedication to the sport at both indoor and outdoor rinks.

John A. Millar II was a staunch supporter of skating and hockey. In honor of what would have been his 100th birthday, the civic center held a day of free ice skating for area youth on Jan. 6. (Contributed)

“John was totally dedicated to establishing youth hockey in Houlton,” said Leigh Cummings, who worked alongside Millar when Cummings was Houlton’s postmaster in the 1980s. “He and Dr. George Ivan Wilson not only succeeded in establishing the sport, but also pushed for and convinced the town to build the original arena.”

Cummings, who also served on the Houlton Town Council alongside Millar, said the decision to name the ice rink as the John A. Millar Civic Center in 1980 was an easy one.

“The Houlton Hockey Association contacted me as Town Council chair and requested the town name the arena for John, which we did,” he recalled. “We held a ceremony dedicating the building as the John A. Millar Arena. John was a World War II vet and tougher than we thought. He fortunately lived for several more years.”

Millar was born Jan. 5, 1918, and died Feb. 19, 2003 at the age of 85. A lifelong resident of Houlton, Millar served in the First Marine Division in the South Pacific during World War II and also served in the Naval Reserves during the Korean War.

His surviving children no longer reside in Houlton, but recall their time spent with their father fondly.

“As I looked to collect just a few pictures of him in his life, tears came to my eyes as I saw the young boy on the dock with his grandfather; the little dutch boy haircut, the soldier, the newlywed, the father, the husband, grandfather and great grandfather … oh how I wish I could have known that boy on the dock and held the little dutch boy in my arms,” his daughter Beth Millar said in a Facebook message. “Oh how I wish I could turn back time to have a moment of the nights he read a bedtime story to me, tucked me in at night, rode bikes as a family, went camping, hiking skiing, skating, picking apples and berries, plus everything in between.”

She said her father taught all of the children to skate on a flooded rink in their backyard, then at an outdoor rink in the park. “He loved to ‘go to the rink,’” Beth said. “I always called the rink when I needed to reach him. He loved the youth of Houlton, he loved the roots and history of Houlton. He is a true legacy to the town and to my family. He is my hero.”

“After he retired, dad gave his every waking moment to that rink,” his son, Jamie Millar said in a Facebook message. “He would talk to all the people young and old alike, know all their names and where they lived. He would find socks, mittens, used skates and equipment for every willing child. He just had so much compassion for the people.”

As a child, Jamie remembers watching his father skate and show him how to do “spread eagle.” “He made it look like fluid motion on ice,” he said. “It was so beautiful.”

“All the kids called him ‘Mr. Hockey,’ and it was a name he was so happy to have,” Jamie said. “How very fortunate are all who knew him and I to have him as my dad, my mentor and friend.”

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