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Jacqueline Louise Pytel Mills: A Woman
of Many Talents
Wife, mother, grandmother, poet, artist, playwright and community leader, Jacqueline Louise Pytel Mills, 90, died on Friday, October 13, 2023. Born in San Antonio, Texas, on April 5, 1933, Jackie was the only child of Jack James Pytel and Martha Louise Posey Pytel. She was doted on by aunts, uncles and her grandmother.
Jackie’s father died when she was six years old, and she lived with her mother, her Aunt Bonnie and her Uncle Earl for several years. Jackie’s love of theater began as a child when she directed her cousins in plays she created. After her mother married Richard G. Andrews, she gained two little brothers. Their family moved frequently due to her stepfather’s work. She lived in Louisiana, Arkansas, and Florida before moving to Chandler, Arizona, where she met her high school sweetheart and the love of her life, Denver L. Mills.
Jackie married Denver in 1951, when he was home on leave from the U.S. Air Force, and they started life together in Topeka, Kansas. Denver was honorably discharged two years later, and they moved to Texas, where Denver used his GI Bill to enroll in The University of Texas at Austin. In 1955, Jackie and Denver welcomed their first daughter, Nancy. Denver earned a Bachelor of Science in Engineering in 1957, and a second daughter, Susan, arrived in 1958.
Jackie supported Denver in his 30-year career with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, making a home for their family in North Richland Hills, Texas, for more than 25 years. They made many lifelong friends there, and Jackie pursued interests in art and writing along with working part-time to help put their daughters through college.
Near the end of Denver’s Corps career, he and Jackie moved to Little Rock, Arkansas, where he oversaw the Little Rock district. He retired in 1986, and they moved back to Texas to be near their daughters and grandchildren.
In 1987, Salado welcomed them, and Jackie’s talents flourished. She thrived as a community leader and received accolades as a children’s author and playwright. With Denver’s steady support, she established and built the charitable organization, Tablerock Festivals, Inc. in Salado and endowed a Tablerock scholarship fund.
In 1991, Jackie wrote and illustrated the children’s book, “Sirena of Salado,” based on a Native American legend. She used proceeds of the book’s sales for scholarships. The next year she began writing, “Salado Legends,” an outdoor musical drama which opened in July 1993 and has run for 30 years at Salado’s Goodnight Amphitheater. The musical, which involves almost 100 community actors and volunteers, tells the history of the area and features its Scottish settlers. “Salado Legends” was inducted into the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., in 2000 and has generated more than $150,000 in college scholarships. In 2012 the Institute of Outdoor Drama honored Jackie with the 22nd Mark R. Sumner Award, a national award recognizing those who have played a significant role in outdoor drama. She was one of only five women to receive the award at that time. In addition to “Salado Legends,” Jackie also created Tablerock’s Halloween Fright Trail using literary characters. Under Jackie’s leadership, Tablerock began hosting an annual poetry festival, publishing “Animal Tales” poetry anthology, and performing “A Christmas Carol.”
Jackie was elected a Salado alderman for seven years, was Salado Art Fair chairman for two years, was president of the Salado Public Library Board for one year, and worked with Salado fourth graders for 11 years teaching them to write and perform their own plays. She has been honored as a Central Texas Girl Scouts Woman of Distinction, and the 2005 Salado Citizen of the Year. She received the Temple Cultural Activities Center’s Mary Steele Service Award. The Barclay Arts Council of Temple named a Young Writer’s Scholarship for her. In 2020, the Daughters of the American Revolution honored her for 50 years of service. Jackie was a member of the Bell County Museum Board and the Salado Tourism Advisory Board.
Jackie and Denver traveled to all 50 states as well as Nova Scotia, Canada, Scotland, the Virgin Islands, Australia, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, and Panama. They both learned to scuba dive, sailed on the Texas Gulf Coast and raised longhorns in Prairie Dell.
When recalling Jackie, we will remember a fiercely independent, strong woman who showed her love for her family, friends and neighbors by cooking delicious meals and desserts for them, calling often to check in with them, and giving generously of herself. Her home was the hub of many get-togethers, parties and holidays. A loyal friend, she celebrated life with a group of women known as the Birthday Girls for more than 30 years. She and a dear friend traded the same birthday card back and forth with added sentiments for more than 40 years. She loved reading and telling stories through plays. A lifelong learner, she staunchly supported libraries and education. She loved her family and enjoyed the “original Mills family” trips with Denver and their two grown daughters.
In May 2022, Denver died at age 91, and Jackie lost her partner of almost 71 years. This summer, Jackie’s breast cancer returned for a third and final time.
Jackie is survived by her daughters: Nancy Mills Mackey and her husband, John, and Susan L. Humiston and her husband, Dave, all of Salado. She also leaves seven grandchildren, Erin Warner (Andy) of Lakeway, Price Mackey (Vanessa) of Arlington, Charlotte Mackey Baird (Zach) of Salado, Lance Mackey (Mylene) of San Antonio, Ashley Elmore (Jeff) of Colleyville, John Mackey III (Laura) of Austin, and Bryant Humiston of Austin; 11 great-grandchildren; brothers Tim Andrews (Esther) of Riverside, California, and Rich Andrews (Luanne) of Wasilla, Alaska; many nieces and nephews, and scores of friends.
The family would like to thank Baylor Scott & White Hospice, Right at Home caregivers and friends Sheri Young and Nancy Shepperd for the compassionate care provided Jackie in her last days.
Visitation will be from 4:30-6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, November 1, at Broecker Funeral Home in Salado. Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. Thursday, November 2, at Broecker, with burial to follow at Salado Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to the 501c3 charity that was dear to Jackie: Tablerock Scholarship Fund, PO Box 55, Salado, TX 76571.
Tablerock Scholarship Fund
PO Box 55, Salado TX 76571