Community says goodbye to Fort Wayne firefighter

Nate Mills had a final ride on Engine 1.

HUNTINGTON, Ind. (WANE) – Family and friends said their final farewells to Fort Wayne firefighter Nate Mills on Friday. Mills died Sunday after a long battle with cancer.

Photo Courtesy John Otto
Photo Courtesy John Otto

A procession started in Huntington where hundreds of people came for Mills’ funeral. Bagpipers played Amazing Grace as his brothers carried him onto Engine 1 for a final ride on the fire truck.

The procession passed under the Huntington and Bluffton ladder trucks by the Markle Volunteer Fire Department. After the long line of emergency vehicles made its way through Fort Wayne, there was a final bell ringing ceremony, signifying the last call for Badge #707.

Nate started his life as a firefighter as a volunteer in Markle in 1993 when he was 19 years old. He fell in love with the job on his first day. To be able to make more runs, he also trained as an EMT so he could work on the ambulance. Nate joined the Fort Wayne department in 2006.

Photo gallery | Beloved firefighter, father and friend 

“I knew I wanted to be a professional fireman and one in Fort Wayne,” he told NewsChannel 15 in an interview in November 2014. “This is where my heart’s at. It’s the brotherhood and the comradery and it’s like part of a family. Through what we’ve gone through, we’ve really seen that. The brothers and sisters have been unbelievable in their support for me and my family.”

The processed passed under the ladder trucks from Huntington and Bluffton fire departments.
The processed passed under the ladder trucks from Huntington and Bluffton fire departments.

In 2000, Nate had melanoma removed from his back. Then in 2012, he started having knee pain and a tumor was found in his tibia. Nate received treatment from Cancer Treatment Center, but a year later doctors said there was nothing else they could do. After several months on hospice care, Nate passed away surrounded by family Sunday morning.

Nate’s wife, Rocky Mills, released the following statement:

It is with sincere gratitude I thank everyone: the Fort Wayne Fire Department, many other fire departments and public safety entities, our friends and even strangers who have reached out and offered their condolences to our family. Please know that the sympathy you have extended to our family has not gone unnoticed. It is these kind gestures, large and small, that will comfort us in the
difficult days ahead. We continue to ask for privacy as we prepare to say “so long” to Nate. We thank you!”

Nate loved his job as a firefighter.

“He always had a smile on his face and was so fun to be around because he’s always in a happy mood,” Capt. Eric Balliet with the Fort Wayne Fire Department said in November. “Everyone loves Nate. It’s tough to watch him go through the struggle he’s going through.”

Last November, Nate came to Station 1 for a lunch with his brothers back in the engine house.

“I love them all. My wife and I couldn’t have gotten through this without their support,” Nate said.

Through it all, Nate stayed positive.

“I’ve had a wonderful life. I have a beautiful wife who I love with all my heart. I’ve had the best job in the world,” Nate said. “What’s there not to be positive about?”

Memorials can be made to the Nate Mills 707 Memorial Fund through the Fort Wayne Fire Department and to the Fire and Police Memorial Fund through the Fort Wayne Professional Firefighters Local 124.

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