Colleagues remember Suzanne Mills as beautiful, brilliant, gifted

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Suzanne
Mills.

SUZANNE Mills was a beautiful, intelligent, brilliant and gifted writer, in the view of people who knew her. She was fair-minded, compassionate and cared deeply for those who worked with and for her.

But Mills, 59, was a troubled soul, bedevilled with bipolar illness, which she wrote about openly in her newspaper column in her last years.

It may have been that illness that led to her death. Mills’s body was found at her home at Aquamarine Drive, Diamond Vale home, on Sunday night, six days after anyone had last seen her.

A former editor in chief at the Newsday (2002-2009), Mills spent over 21 years in different positions at the paper, where her late mother Therese Mills was the founding editor in chief.

Friends and colleagues responded with shock to the news of her solitary death. Her body was found after neighbours called the police.

Newsday’s board of directors said its members were deeply saddened by the news of her untimely passing. They said the Mills family was intimately connected with Newsday and always would be.

Daily editor Ken Chee Hing was one of those at Newsday who worked with Mills when she was daily editor and later editor in chief.

He remembered her as “a vibrant journalist, a great writer and also an editor who demanded only the best from her reporters. As an editor, she supported her reporters and was willing to impart advice and suggestions.

“Suzanne was committed to two things – her mother and her job.”

For all her seriousness, Chee Hing recalled the humorous side of Mills.

“I remember Suzanne Mills the person, who loved a good joke or old talk. Her laughter was loud as was her voice. She let you know what was on her mind whether you wanted to know it or not.”

He referred to her many personal issues, which worsened with the passing of her mother, but being fiercely private and an independent woman, he said, she bore her challenges alone.

“May she rest in peace. My condolences to her family and friends,” Chee Hing said.

Another former colleague, Sunday editor Camille Moreno, said, “Suzanne was fiercely committed to a free press, defending Newsday against its critics. Her political reporting stands out, especially her commentaries where she spared no punches against both sides. I’m grateful I got to work with her and her mother.”

Head of Newsday’s San Fernando office Lincoln Holder was also torn by Mills’s tragic end.

“I knew she had her troubles, but to go down that road alone, that’s hard.

“She was a good boss. She was fair. Like her mother, she was big on education and always encouraged the younger employees to study.

“She brought a freshness to the Newsday and often butted heads with the older staff because of her novel style. We followed her vision, which was really to bring that youthfulness to the paper.”

Holder, a photographer, recalled before she rose to manage the newsroom, Mills was a political reporter, whom he often accompanied to Parliament. He said she always guided him and gave him tips in terms of what photographic images to capture.

“She impacted my career a lot. She was very knowledgeable. Like her mother, she was always there for us: we could speak to her about anything. She was compassionate, she was jovial, always kept the place lively.

“I am sorry to hear of her tragic passing. Condolences to her family.”

Though from a competing media house, political reporter Richard Lord thanked Mills for her service to journalism. He said she raised the bar on political reporting so high, it motivated him to become a better writer.

“With Suzanne from the Newsday on one side, (and) Ria Taitt from the Express on the other, I, as the Guardian reporter, was inspired to write a thorough a story as they did.

“May her soul rest in eternal peace.”

Suzanne Sheppard, a former editor at Newsday, said she was shocked and heartbroken by the circumstances of Mills’s passing.

“I have known Suzanne for many years and it is sad that she died alone.”

Sheppard said her relationship with Mills dated back to the time when Mills’s mother was editor in chief of the Guardian and Mills dreamed of following in her footsteps.

“I remember when she left to study abroad. She lived in Spain for some time. She was bilingual and worked for some multinational companies. Her mother and I often spoke about her. We later worked together at the management level of the newsroom at Newsday. She was a very intelligent young woman.

“I just want to extend my condolences to her family and colleagues.”

Another former colleague, Irene Medina, also lauded Mills’s brilliance.

“We worked well together. I found her to be very energetic and tremendously bright. She was a very good journalist, a great writer, a brave writer, very creative and innovative.

“I remember one election time when she created a whole ‘election campaign’ in the office and had people voting and wearing campaign T-shirts. I did not participate, but I admired how her mind and her brain worked. She always found a way to do things a little bit outside the box.”

Recalling her health issues, Medina said, “I knew she had her challenges, but I did not expect the news that I heard today.”

The Media Association (MATT) said it joined the journalism community in mourning the loss of Mills, daughter of “the legendary Therese Mills.”

It noted that as a “well regarded political reporter and commentator, she took up the job of Newsday editor, but had a relatively short career there, buffeted by mental health issues.

“Ms Mills wrote a column for several months in 2019-2020 for the Trinidad Express and openly discussed her experiences with bipolar disorder,” it recalled, commenting that her death was “a powerful reminder of the toll that journalism can take on its practitioners and the importance of self-care and supportive conversations” in doing their jobs.

MATT said it was “committed to increasing opportunities to address these issues facing journalists” and sent its condolences to Mills’s family.