by David Falk
Rich Mills passed away on February 7, 2016 from complications involving a heart condition. Since then he has been remembered on his Facebook page by people whose lives he touched by taking photos, many of them of soccer matches within the Seattle area Hispanic community.
I interviewed Mills back in 2010, asking him about his service to others in the form of much-cherished photographs. “I am retired and look to this work as a hobby. I keep my prices low hoping recoup some of my costs for paper and ink,” he told me. “My clients do not have a lot of discretionary income.”
What his clients had and still do have is a genuine appreciation for a man who was more than just a photographer, but for some a link to a new America itself.
“You’re a symbol in the PNW futbol community,” one post on Facebook says. “You are one of the most amazing people I have met. Thank you for your help and support towards the Latino community. Thank you for encouraging people to further their education. I can’t believe you’re gone. I’m gonna miss getting lunch with you and having discussions about politics and social issues. RIP.”
Video by Lupita Zavala
Another post says, “I want you to know that you were the first person I met from this state, and you were a cheerful person…thank you for your photos and the gifts to my children…”
Photos from Seattle Rebels FC
Mills went out of his way to make sure that everyone who wanted photos got them. He was always up for doing more. “Latinos play like they live, with reckless abandon,” he told me back then. “It’s a community, and often a family affair. Many Latino teams are comprised of family members. It is not uncommon to have father and son teammates, cousins, and uncles on a team. In the stands, you will find the wives and children with horns, flags and clickers adding to the general cacophony.” And Mills became the uncle on the sidelines that somehow represented the kindness that America can offer, in amidst daily struggles to learn a language, find work, raise a family.
“I often isolate on a player at their request, because they may want to buy a photo or, more often, because their friends and family are accessing my web site in another country and want to see the face of their loved one,” Rich told me. “I also make montages to sell to the players some covering the entire season and may consist of dozens of shots of the same person. The proliferation of the web has been a real boon for families separated by the Diaspora to at least have some ability to follow family members. If I know a player’s family is looking at my web site, I make sure his photo is included.”
As word spread about Rich’s passing their was shock and sadness. Some had just seen him shooting matches on the day he passed. This weekend hearts were broken on Valentines Day as Rich was remembered by the Hispanic soccer community before matches.
Video by Margarito Avila.