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Long way to orchard for Mills, who's come long way

Wilson Mills of Circle K Orchard in Beldenville is one of the honorary citizens for the El Paso Days celebration next weekend.

BELDENVILLE—So how did a guy from the South end up running an orchard here in the North?

Wilson Mills’ life has taken him so many places perhaps the odds favored his finding what he’s done the last 25 years—owned and operated Circle K Orchard in Beldenville. But Mills’ previous career directions didn’t suggest anything farm-related. And the pristine, serene countryside setting he now inhabits can be deceiving if someone assumes it’s meant to serve this retiree-age businessman in retirement.

“It’s a lot of work every day,” he said Tuesday, discussing his experiences after being named one of the honorary citizens for the El Paso Days celebration this Thursday through Sunday.

Yet, there are a couple of clues in Mills’ past leading to his becoming an apple grower. The not-so-obvious one is his choosing marketing as an emphasis while in college; that knowledge has been valuable in promoting Circle K and its products. The other more apparent one are trips he took as a youth into the hills back home with his father to look at orchards.

The grower’s dad, Frank, was a strong influence on him, he said. A native of Oak Ridge, Tenn., the son of the chemical engineer grew up in security-minded surroundings. Oak Ridge, one of the first planned cities in the U.S., was home to components of the atomic bomb and the employment the elder Mills held included access to classified information.

His father, a Georgia Tech graduate, also worked for the forerunner to the old soil conservation service, surveying land in Arkansas, Missouri and Texas, he said. He had a great-great grandfather who was once the governor of Georgia, notable for taking a hand in routing the railroad through Marthasville, Ga. (later Atlanta) when the people of Decatur, Ga., didn’t want it. His mother, Margaret, was a Wilson from Missouri whose dad was a doctor. Two siblings, Tommy and Josie, presently live in Oak Ridge and Atlanta.

Those father-son orchard journeys were to satisfy his own dad’s curiosity about most everything, Mills said. He had well-rounded interests himself, especially in sports. As a high school student, he was a diver on the swim team (a one-meter AAU champ one year) and a blocking back his senior year (1958) on the football team (noted for its single-wing formation), deemed the best in the nation by Sports Illustrated magazine.

For more please read the August 13 print version of the Herald. 

Bill Kirk

Bill Kirk was editor of the Pierce County Herald in Ellsworth, from 1988 to February, 2015 and is now on staff as a reporter. He holds a bachelors degree in journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He previously worked in the media distribution department at the University of Minnesota's Minneapolis campus and is past editor of The Tri-County News in Osseo, Wisconsin.

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