BENTON – Marion Sylvia (Rogers) Mills, 78, of Benton, LA passed away at her home on October 8, 2016. Marion was born to Harold and Beatrice Rogers on March 18, 1938 in Widnes, England.
At the start of WWII, Marion, her siblings, cousins and mom, Beatrice, were sent to her grandfather’s house to live out the war, while her father served in the British Army. She attended Farnworth Church School and began her early ballet studies under the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) in Warrington, England.
The family strived for some normalcy, despite German fly-overs, rations, gas masks and the city being bombed out twice.
After the war, Marion and the family moved to Tanganyika, Africa where her dad worked in growing peanuts. Despite the Landrover adventures through the sweltering bush and Mt. Kilimanjaro excursions, she missed her ballet studies.
Marion returned to England, attending a boarding school in Liverpool and training at Sheila Elliot Clark Studio. Passing with “honors”, she received registrations with the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing and the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) and began her professional performing career with the Sadler Wells Ballet Company and shows in the Royal Theatre.
In 1955, she married U.S. Air Force serviceman Cecil M. Mills from Baytown, TX, who was stationed at Burtonwood RAF. Returning state-side with his new bride, he was stationed at Barksdale AFB. In 1962, Marion opened Theatre School of Dance as the first performing arts institution in north Louisiana to partner with the RAD in training students. The school later moved to Shreveport.
She began the area’s first ballet company called Ballet Lyrique, later changed to the Shreveport Metropolitan Ballet. In 1978, under the direction of Marion, the company performed the Nutcracker Ballet with the Shreveport Symphony, which began a rich partnership engaging the artistic community in creation and celebration of the arts.
Marion brought in choreographers, master teachers and world-class performers and created a partnership with the public school system to offer lecture-demonstrations to hundreds of school children, established classical ballet classes at local magnet schools and created performance series with the arts council.
Her students pursued professional careers in dance and have become the current generation of leaders in the arts community. Today, Theatre School of Dance on Airline Dr. is owned and operated by Emily Seale and still providing students with an RAD training, progressing through exams endorsed by the Queen of England.
Marion is preceded in death by her son, Michael, and her parents.
She is survived by her husband, Cecil; their children, Jack (Sharon) Mills, Catherine (Mike) Lash, Belinda Mills (her tireless caregiver) and Celia Mills; siblings, Harold Rogers, Charles Rogers, Olwen Hedgecock, Stephen Rogers and Anne Havard; grandchildren, Dustin (Keri) Mills, Danielle (Stephen) Fish, Christa Lash, Michael Lash, Sarah Lash and great-grandchildren, Makenzie, Michael and Caleb.
A Celebration of Life service will be held on Saturday, October 15, 2016 at 10 a.m. at Cypress Baptist Church, 4701 Palmetto Rd., Benton, LA, with Minister Tommy Patton officiating. Interment will be private.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests you make a gift in memory of Marion to the United Service Organization atuso.org.