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Memories of SEA: Kathy Mills Rozzini

February 5, 2024

Editor’s note: Kathy Mills Rozzini remembers the opening day of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and shares her memories. 

I was at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on opening day, July 9, 1949. Here’s a photo of my family at the airport. We are at the short wall that was across the drop-off/pick up driveway at the entrance to the airport. My biggest memory of that event — it was a very hot day. I also remember they were handing out bottles of Coke, a really big treat in those days. 


I am the little girl on the far right (just days short of my 4th birthday) standing with my beloved Auntie Sally Mills, who is still doing great at 98!  My uncle (her husband, Stan Mills) was with United Airlines Corporate. 

Steve Mills

We were an aviation family. Just a few years before this photo, my dad, Steve Mills (on the left looking tired and hot) was serving in World War II. My mom (Roberta Mills in the white dress) was 19 years old back then. She was pregnant with her first child and living with my widowed grandmother (Beatrice Mills) while my dad was away at war. On the night of my mom’s baby shower, a telegram was delivered stating my father’s plane had been shot down and he was MIA (missing in action). No other information was available.

Communications back then was slow at best and at the mercy of the Germany information network which was even slower. Finally, weeks later, my grandma and mom got word that my dad did survive the crash and was a Nazi Germany POW (prisoner of war). In the meantime, my mom gave birth to my older sister but my dad didn’t get any information at all until long after she was born.  

Finally, 13 months after being imprisoned, the war ended, The Russians liberated his POW stalag, and he was transported back to the USA. He was frail when he was reunited with his wife, however not too frail. About nine months and 10 minutes later I was born.  

All the men returning from war were looking for jobs and there just weren’t enough to go around. Plus, many of the women who filled in while the men were at war, liked their jobs and wanted to keep them. It was really hard on the men returning, especially those with families. Eventually my dad did get work, and all looked manageable until my mother’s three-month check-up after my birth. Surprise! Another baby on the way!  (The pill wouldn’t be available for another 20 years.) My father had hoped at least one of his children would be a boy so he could carry on the family name of Stephen Edmond Mills, which dated back to the early 1800s. And here he was with three girls.

Check out the signature on my grandfather's National Aeronautic Association card. (Orville Wright)

Aviation legacy

As for our aviation legacy — my grandfather Steve Mills (the father of my dad) — took his Seattle-based airline, Northern Air Service, to Alaska in 1932 during the Great Depression. He renamed the airline Star Air Service.  Eleven years later, it would be renamed a last time to Alaska Airlines. 

I wrote a book about those first turbulent years “The History of Alaska Airlines: The first eleven years 1932-1943.”

The cover of the book features my grandfather, Steve Mills, prop-starting the first airplane in the long list of Alaska Airline aircraft. It was a Fleet 7 Deluxe B-5 NC786V.


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