Welcome to Norton Quaker Meeting House – but some Sad News

Andrew ‘Drew’ Mills passed away on Wednesday 21 June 2023 aged 77

A brief note of appreciation by our web author, Michael Piercy, follows.

Our usual welcome page can be reached from the Welcome tab.

Positive and in a Care Home rebuilding his Strength on the 2nd February this year 2023

Andrew – usually called Drew – hit Norton Quaker meeting like a tornado.

Within 18 months of joining Quakers he became Clerk to the Meeting and within 3 years he was developing plans for a £100,000 wheelchair friendly peace garden for use by the local community. That was never achieved in totality but much of it was, considerably improving the safety, sustainability and friendliness of the building to all including wheelchair users. Much of my own earlier career was similar to his – senior roles in management in private industry, company cars, spreadsheets and the rise of the desktop PC and those business dynamics.

But he always outshone me both in energy and discipline. He knew his Bible backwards and I’ll never forget the way he could point to the closed Book at almost the exact place if you said to him for example ‘Leviticus 12:1’. Prior to his arrival I had taken on the role of Treasurer – which meant far more than book-keeping – and found unchecked correspondence, for example for gift aid, going back for over five years. Then our boiler packed up and for a while we didn’t have the £2,500 for a new one. I got that sorted, trudging round Stockton getting signing rights in miserable rain. So I had a grasp of how things had been at Norton and how they could survive on just tickover.

But Drew was having none of just that. He wanted Quakers in Norton to come alive and hence started working on the £100,000 project for a peace garden to include a professionally designed concrete wheelchair friendly labyrinth on top of the graves. That frightened me and I sought in vain from the higher echelons of the Quaker hierarchy for some support in slowing this down. That never came. Never mind. And I liked to think that – speed and size apart – I shared the same positive nature as Drew so suggested we started a weekly coffee and scones session at the Surfside Café in Seaton Carew.

We both enjoyed those and always anticipated with joy the next get together. For a time we would order an ‘£8.40’ – two large Americanos and two fruit scones. The girls at Surfside knew our formula. And Drew and Norma had met and fallen in love and married. He was a new man with not just ambitious projects, not just coffee and scones but a lovely wife, Norma. Norma would now join us at Surfside for our weekly ritual.

Only 22 July last year 2022 at the Surfside Cafe. Norma teasing Drew about the symbolism of the white feather.

Over the last two years Drew’s health started to decline and so he put me on his car insurance and I would cycle to his house, then drive Drew and Norma to Surfside in their car. £8.40 became £12.60! Further deterioration made it increasingly difficult for them to get out. So our next pattern was for me to cycle to their house with he and myself alternately calling at Greggs just opposite for 4 fruit scones (1 spare) and then we would have coffee and fruit scones at their house.

From January this year his health rapidly deteriorated with hopeful yet false dawns of recovery. We would gather round his bed at North Tees hospital and though he had things he wanted to say we understood less and less and until he just stared straight ahead during my last visit the day before he died. In the early days of his decline he having already lost the power of speech, I would salute him when I left and he would return a very smart salute with a firm smile.

He never looked so handsome as on that last day, looking firmly ahead and surely facing the next big journey with calm and courage. It was an honour to know him and a great personal loss to see him go. I salute you Drew.

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For General issues or problems with the web site please contact Mark Sheffield at sheffield@ntlworld.com