Saturday, November 17, 2007

Mina Millett 1955-2006

A year ago this week, my dear friend Mina Millett died at the age of 51. Her husband David was kind enough to send me this photo from one of their many trips they took together, this one to San Simeon in southern California.

The cause was cancer. I don't want to focus on her death, but on her life, and the wonderful good fortune I had to know her and be her friend. I knew Mina for 21 years. I have so many memories of her, I could write posts until New Years and still not scratch the surface. Mina was a wonderful person. She was smart and kind, funny and generous, lovely and amazing. I introduced Mina to many of my family and friends, and several of them joined me at her memorial service. I wanted to get up and speak at the service, but I was worried that I wouldn't be able to keep control of my sorrow. Her friend and former roommate Christopher Walkey ran the memorial service, and he did a beautiful job.

So many of my friends and family who knew Mina said the same thing about her. They told me how gracious she was, what a pleasure it was to be around her, how welcome she made folks feel when they visited her home. She had many wonderful qualities, but I remember her sense of humor and quick wit most of all.


Mina was the one who first dubbed Tara and Anne Dresbach, the daughters of my friends Michael and Mona Dresbach, the Dres-babies. Now the Dres-babies have babies, so Miss Evelyn Mobley is technically a Dres-baby-baby.


Mina introduced me to the concept of the most vital unit of currency, the BARTable dollar. This means a dollar bill that will be accepted by a vending machine, most important to her as a commuter who used our local mass transit system BART.


Trivial Pursuit question: What strikes the Statue of Liberty 142 times a year?
Mina's answer: Air Florida.


One of her two masters degrees was in theatre, where she learned many things I never knew, toiling away in the mathematics mines. She taught me these alternate lyrics to "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes", which I have never forgotten.

They asked me how I knew
Raccoon shit was bluuuuuuuuuuuue,
I of course replied,
Raccoon shit is dyed.
It's not blue inside.


Mina was raised in Los Angeles, and though she studied in Boston and Minneapolis before settling down in San Francisco, she kept a Southern Californian idea of what a nice day is. If it wasn't sunny and at least 72 degrees F., Mina found it intolerably cold. "The dogs are sticking to the sidewalks." she would say.

Me: It's not that cold.

Mina: It's freezing!

Me: It's 64 degrees!

Mina: Twice freezing is still freezing.


Many years ago, we were making plans to see a movie and I was flipping through the paper to see what looked good. "I hear there's a new Bette Midler movie." said Mina.

"Yeah, there is. I know you like Bette Midler, but I don't think we want to see this one. It's called Stella."

"Oh, my God." said Mina. "This isn't a remake of Stella Dallas, is it?"

"This is why I value our friendship. There are so many things I don't have to explain to you."


For those who never knew Mina, no explanation of how wonderful she was truly does her justice. For those who did know her, no explanation from me is necessary. All of us who knew her miss her very much, her husband David most of all. I'm very thankful that David and I remain friends, and especially thankful that Mina Millett was my friend for 21 wonderful years.


Karla said...

One of my favorite Mina-isms actually came down to me from her father Cecil.

He called the original Star Trek "that pajama show," which still makes me giggle to this day. You can't look at those costumes and uniforms with a straight face ever again.

And of course, Tino and Eli and I renamed all subsequent shows The Next Pajamas, Deep Pajamas Nine, and Voyajamas.

Mina, you were a treasure, and you still is!

Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

She sounds like she was a cool chickie, I'm sorry you lost a good bud.

Matty Boy said...

Mina Cecilia Vanderberg got a lot of her sense of humor from her father Cecil. I was at their house and they told the story of how the last name Vanderberg came about. Mina's parents married late in life, and so did Mina's grandparents on her dad's side, so though we were less than a year apart in age, her paternal grandfather, who Mina never met, was a veteran of the Spanish-American War. He was full-blooded Indian, and when he joined the Army decided he couldn't have his Indian name and told him to come up with an American name. So he chose Vanderberg.

Her grandfather left her grandmother, and was not a beloved figure in the Vanderberg household. I asked what his original name was.

"Big Chief Sit On His Butt." came the reply from Cecil.

FranIAm said...

I am sorry for the loss of your friend, but what a light she was!

Padre Mickey said...

Yeah, Mina was great. Thanks for this remembrance.

Matty Boy said...

You're welcome, Padre. This was hard to write, but I'm glad I did it.

CDP said...

I'm sorry for your loss; what a great tribute.

hyfler/rosner said...

I'm very pleased that I had a chance to meet Mina, if only on two occasions. What you've written is very accurate. Too young. Too young.


Distributorcap said...

mina is smiling down on you every day

Matty Boy said...

Thanks to all who wrote, both Mina's friends and my friends from this odd community called the blogosphere.

One of the many things I left out about Mina in this tribute is that I met her when she answered my personal ad in a local newspaper way back in 1985.

A lot of my friends I have met through such odd circumstances, like Padre Mickey, who answered an ad on KFJC when I was looking for bandmates, and Amelia Rosner, who became a pen pal and then a face to face pal when we were both regular posters on alt.obituaries.

Maybe that's why the blogosphere doesn't seem that strange to me.

Anonymous said...

It was the 25th November yesterday in Melbourne, Australia and I came across a card sent to me by Mina. What are the odds? She and I had worked together some 16 years ago in Melbourne when she was still working for Deloitte. As I am now a fellow Deloittian I wondered how I might get back in touch with her. I googled her name (as you do) and found that she was CIO of Dolby. "Sensational" I thought. But then I came across your posting and went from joy to absolute sadness. Thank you for posting this message. I too remember her incredible quick wit and generosity. She was one in a miilion and I'll never forget her. David, although we never me I remember how happy she was telling me how she'd met and married an Aussie! What a woman!

Matty Boy said...

Thanks to the anonymous poster. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. The only positive thing I can say is you were one of the lucky people who knew her.

Everybody I know says pretty much the same thing. There wasn't anybody else like her.

Marty Sonnenschein Salzberg said...

I was on LinkedIn tonight and took a look at Brandeisian classmates on LinkedIn. This lead me to a Brandeis list of lost Alumni, where I saw Mina's name. this lead me to Google "Mina Vanderberg" where I found your post. So very sad to learn that Mina is gone. I was one of her roommates at Brandeis, but we lost touch after she moved to San Francisco in the early 80's. Oh how I wish the Internet had been around then, so that none of us would have lost touch, only to find each other now in a remembrance like this.

Matty Boy said...

Hi, Marty. You're right about the Internet, it's a great chance to get back in touch with people. I share your grief in losing Mina. I miss her every day.

Andrea Roundtree said...

So here we all are, some 10 years later, and I still miss my BFF and think of her often. Today would have been her 61st birthday. She loved the fact that she was older than me...even if it was only by a month and a day.

We spent more time apart than together after St. Paul's Elementary School but we remained integral parts of each others lives. The fact that I did a name search for her today just goes to show how much I miss her and wish I could talk to her, so I loved reading this original post, seeing her picture (so Mina) and reading the comments.

Thank you for the wonderful memories.

Matthew Hubbard said...

Hi, Andrea. Thanks for stopping by. I still miss her, too.