Key Peninsula community booster and beloved newspaper columnist Hugh McMillan died Feb. 10. He was 96 years old.
Born in New Westminster, British Columbia, in 1926 to Angus and Clara, his family emigrated to the U.S. when Hugh was 3. He grew up in Tacoma, graduating from Lincoln High School in 1944 before enlisting in the U.S. Navy. He went on to get his Bachelor of Arts from the University of Puget Sound in 1952 and then wed his college sweetheart, Janice Grosser, to whom he was married for the next 69 years. They had two sons, Lance and Marshall.
After college, Hugh was recruited into the CIA and over the course of his 26-year career served for extended periods in Japan, India, Egypt, Greece and Turkey. He was twice decorated for his performance as a field operative, including for organizing the evacuation of some 900 U.S. citizens from Egypt during the 1967 Arab Israeli War.
Hugh retired from the CIA in 1978 and settled in Home, where he remained for the next 44 years. He was very active with a large number of community service organizations, including as a volunteer firefighter for Fire District 16, where he also served 14 years as a fire commissioner; a charter member of the KP Lions Club and its eighth president; a founding member of Key Peninsula Citizens Against Crime; an active supporter of Community In Schools of Peninsula; and by helping to organize and obtain start-up funding for the KP Community Council.
His service to the community was recognized many times, including by the Gig Harbor Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year in 2010, the Gig Harbor Rotary Star Award in 2014, and by the Peninsula School District establishing the Hugh McMillan Award for extraordinary contributions by community members. In 2019 a plaque was erected outside the Key Center fire station honoring Hugh’s many contributions to Fire District 16. In 2021 the Peninsula School District named the combined gymnasium and community center at Evergreen Elementary School after him.
But in many ways Hugh is best known for his weekly column, “Kid’s Corner,” which appeared in the Peninsula Gateway newspaper for over 20 years. If there was a kindergarten class reading “The Cat in the Hat,” or a group of students visiting the Minter Creek Salmon Hatchery, Hugh was there — camera in hand — to record the event. Highlighting children’s accomplishments was his greatest passion. As he liked to say, “There’s already too many negative things in our lives and letting folks know about the wonderful stuff our kids are doing is important.”
His writing and photographs, as well as Janice’s, were foundational to the KP News in the 1980s and regularly appeared in its pages for the next 30 years.
Hugh was preceded in death by Janice in 2021 and son Marshall in 1980. He is survived by his son, Lance, daughter-in-law Sheri and grandson Cameron. A celebration of life is planned for the summer.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Peninsula Schools Education Foundation or Communities In Schools of Peninsula.
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