MISSOULA — Family and friends of a young Missoula woman -- who died while scuba diving in Glacier National Park -- are remembering her as a bright light in this world, an 18-year-old who was compassionate and funny with a sense of adventure.
She was a young woman ready to take on the world. She may be gone, but it is hoped a memorial in her name helps lift up those who need it so that they, too, can live their best life.
Linnea Rose Mills, named after the flower that grows abundantly in Montana. During her 18 years on this earth, this young woman developed a world view much bigger than just the Big Sky.
“Linnea had a nonlinear lifestyle. She did not really care about what she was supposed to do or what other people did. She did things that she wanted to enjoy,” Linnea’s brother Nick Mills recalled.
Linnea’s family lived for a time halfway around the world in Bhutan. She was just a child then but right now; thousands of butter lights burn in honor of her.
“You know she was our Buddha baby, our peaceful child. People remember her because she was such a little bright shiny light,” Linnea’s mother Lisa Mills said.
Her life was filled with friends and family. Linnea was a lifeguard for Missoula Parks and Recreation and played on the Hellgate High School golf team.
She also worked for the Missoula Boys and Girls Club every Friday and was about to start a new job in a local group home.
Linnea recently embarked on a 7,000-mile road trip with just her dog. It’s not surprising she’d take that on. By 15, she was already a certified SCUBA diver and had explored the Great Barrier Reef. She had a passion for it. Her mom tells us she thought about making SCUBA diving part of her career.
But on November 1 while in an advanced SCUBA diving course at Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park, something went wrong, and she drowned.
While the family waits for an investigation to detail what happened, they are simply remembering Linnea.
“November 1st. She died doing something that she truly loved doing. And if there is one way to think of Linnea is that she just wanted to help others and spend life exploring and doing things that she loved,” Nick said.
“We knew that we had to let her spread her wings. She’s always been a very safe, careful, thoughtful person. She’s always loved adventures. That was the kind of person she wanted to be and we wanted her to be,” Linnea’s dad Scott said.
“That's what she did. She found her strengths and she figured it all out and was so excited about what's next,” Lisa told MTN News. “What I can say is she was doing what she loved. I will say that. There's no doubt she was pursuing every passion.”
The family has started the Linnea Rose Mills Memorial Fund. Her brother Nick is the administrator with her close friends as advisors. They plan to use the fund for things Linnea would want -- for people in need, for troubled or suicidal youth. She was known to buy lunch for someone who needed a meal. Her compassion for others was well known.
Instead of thinking of what could have been, her family is remembering what was. “In a way, I’ve come to peace with that she only got 18 years -- and that is a tough one,” Lisa concluded.
Linnea's family has been able to connect with those who tried to save their daughter that night in Glacier National Park to thank them for their efforts. They tell us the investigation into her death is ongoing and multi-faceted. They are grateful to the National Park Service for taking such a careful and considerate approach. They've also been able to reach out to those who tried to save Linnea's life that night to express their thanks and to offer comfort.
Donations to the Linnea Rose Mills Memorial Fund can be made at any Clearwater Credit Union in Missoula or may be sent to the Mills Family, P.O. Box 7555, Missoula, MT 59807.