Elizabeth 'Libby' Stone Mills

Born 12/30/1928
Belfast, Maine

Died 1/12/2023
Southwest Harbor, Maine

Details of services
A Celebration of Life service will be held March 18th at 1 pm at the Currier Center at The Putney School.

Elizabeth “Libby” Stone Mills, 94, of Westminster West, Vermont, and part-time resident of Swans Island, Maine, died peacefully on January 12, 2023, in Southwest Harbor, Maine, at the home of her niece, Sonia Field.

Libby had a deep connection to the natural world.  Her lifelong interests included hiking, sailing, camping, swimming, cross-country skiing, gardening and walking faster than people half her age.

She was a master teacher and mentor as well as an accomplished fiber artist.  But perhaps her greatest gift was her ability to relate meaningfully with people from all backgrounds and to lead them forward.

Born in Belfast, Maine, on December 30, 1928, Libby grew up with her parents, grandparents and two siblings in the house where her great-grandparents settled after living at sea for twenty-one years.  The Depression and World War II shaped her early years, but she also held many happy memories of life in Belfast and summers at the family cottage on the shore at The Battery.

After graduating from Oberlin College, Libby worked as a recreational therapist and an occupational therapist. She married Robert (Bob) Mills in 1951. They lived in New York and Colorado and had two children, Matthew and Anne.

In 1958 Libby and Bob moved to Vermont to work at The Putney School, an independent high school, where they stayed for three decades. During summers, they took groups to work on remote Maine islands, working for the Student Conservation Program. Over the years, Libby taught weaving and human behavior and held various leadership and administrative positions. She remained committed to the school philosophy related to service, manual labor, creative arts, community, justice, land stewardship and a life of adventure.

During summers, while raising their family, Libby and Bob lived and built on a piece of land on Swans Island, Maine.  In 1965 they bought an abandoned farm in Westminster West, Vermont. A lifetime of projects at both locations provided permanent access to nature for their family and many visitors. Libby remained connected to the Maine coast throughout her life; she cherished her relationships with the full-time island residents.

In 1980, while still working at Putney School, Libby joined three others in founding The Green Mountain Spinnery.  The worker-owned cooperative, making yarn for knitters and weavers from locally sourced wool, still operates successfully today.

In 1986, Libby lost her beloved daughter, Anne, to cancer. Her husband Bob died eight years later.  Even in those dark days, Libby continued to reach toward life. Retiring from The Putney School, she continued to work for the Spinnery.

Gib Taylor, her partner of the decade following her husband’s passing, shared her interests in outdoor activities, the Maine coast and the arts until his death in 2006.

Political activism was very important to Libby; she went to jail after participating in a non-violent protest.  Issues related to human rights, environmental conservation and working toward justice were priorities for her.  She possessed the ability to facilitate communication with people from all points of view.

Libby served on the boards of both the Putney Mountain Association and the Windmill Hill Pinnacle Association for approximately thirty years.  She cultivated and sustained many partnerships and negotiated with respect. She co-authored a book about the history of the WHPA, and helped both organizations expand local land protection.

At 80, Libby began a new phase of life by marrying her long-time friend, John Barnett. They both adapted and thrived, and particularly enjoyed traveling together during the decade they had before his death.

In her later years, Libby completed the compilation and publication of “Nellie’s Diary”, written by her great-grandmother about life at sea from 1863-1865.

Libby faced her brief illness with the same courage and grace which allowed her to appreciate life while suffering so many losses.  The family extends thanks to her support teams who made this possible as she remained in both of her homes and saw the ocean one last time.

Libby was pre-deceased by her daughter, Anne Starrett Mills, brother, Edward M. Stone, partner Gilbert “Gib” Taylor and her two husbands, Robert C. Mills and John W. Barnett.

She is survived by her son, Matthew G. Mills, of Putney, Vermont;  her sister, Dorothy Stone McMahan, of Penobscot, Maine; and many loving nieces, nephews, step-children, cherished friends and extended family.

A Celebration of Life service will be held March 18th at 1 pm at the Currier Center at The Putney School.

Donations in honor of Libby are welcomed by Eldercare Outreach of Swans Island (PO Box 92; Swans Island, ME 04685); Libby Mills Fund for the Fiber Arts @ The Putney School (; Putney Mountain Association ( or Windmill Hill Pinnacle Association (

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