Robert Lee Millard

Published 10:06 am Friday, September 16, 2016

Robert Lee Millard, age 88, of Inman, S.C., died unexpectedly in his sleep on Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2016, in Birch Run, Mich. Services will be announced at a later date.

Anyone who knew Bob Millard recognized him as a special person. His cheerful wit, determination, passion for excellence, optimism and unconditional love attracted people to him and resulted in an astonishingly large and diverse circle of friends.

Bob was born in Richland, Mich. on Nov. 19, 1927 to the late Elburn and Rosamond (LaPorte) Millard. His childhood was spent fishing and getting into mischief around the family farms near West Branch and Flint, Mich. He graduated from Kersley High School in Flint and was drafted at the beginning of 1946. Following training at Fort McClellan, Ala., he served at Mindanao and Manila in the Philippines during the post-war Allied Occupation. He joked that as the company baker and mess sergeant, his biscuits were used for ammunition in bazooka practice.

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Upon discharge from the Army, Bob returned to Flint and worked briefly for Bell Telephone before using the GI Bill to attend Flint Junior College. He met Joan Turner in the bridge club and was attracted by her laugh. The resulting marriage lasted 53 years and produced four devoted children. Bob worked at numerous jobs in his early adult and college years, including in a lumber camp, at a shoe store (where he got fired for sending a customer to a competitor with better shoes at lower prices), an ice cream factory and a driving school.

In order to finish college, Bob signed up for a program with the Michigan School for the Deaf (MSD) that offered to pay for two years of college in exchange for working at the school. By taking advantage of the program he was able to start teaching while taking night classes 65 miles away at Eastern Michigan University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree. After teaching at MSD for 13 years, he was offered the position of dean of students if he would complete his master’s degree, which he did by piecing together classes from a variety of institutions.

In 1971, Bob and Joan moved the four kids and family dog to Spartanburg, S.C., where he served as associate superintendent, and eventually president, of the South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind. He retired in 1988 and lived in the Upstate for the rest of his life. As a widower in 2007, Bob reconnected with longtime friend, Norma Ruth Barnes, who had recently lost her longtime husband, Dale. They married and were devoted to each other until his death.

In addition to his first wife, Ruth Joan Turner Millard, Bob was preceded by his brother, William Millard. In addition to his beloved Norma, he leaves behind sons: Paul (Donna) Millard of Munford, Ala. and Andy (Sharon) Millard of Columbus, N.C.; daughters Jill Millard (Chuck Abernathy) of Charlotte and Nancy (Bobby) Norton of Lilburn, Ga.; grandchildren, Jana (Justin) Hyatt, Hunter Millard, Drew Millard, Katie (James) Thompson, Troy (Katie) Norton; and great-grandchildren James Norton, Lilly Norton and Rodney Hyatt.

Please sign our guestbook or share an online condolence with the family at

In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the Walker Foundation – Joan Millard Scholarship Fund. 355 Cedar Springs Road, Spartanburg SC 29302.

Submitted by Sharon Millard