Tuesday, 27 June 2017

In memory of Kelvin Mills: trustee, volunteer and life affirmer

Powys Patients' Council team 2014: L - R Freda Lacey, Rhydian Parry, Penny Price (Ward Manager), John Lilley, Kelvin Mills
by guest author, Freda Lacey
PAVO Senior Officer, Health & Social Care

I wrote recently about “Dying Matters” and in May, one of the long standing volunteers of the PAVO Mental Health team, Powys Mental Health Alliance (PMHA) and Mid Powys Mind - Kelvin Mills - died.

When I facilitated Powys Patients’ Council several years ago now, which goes into Bronllys Hospital Mental Health Inpatient Unit, I was privileged to work with three volunteers. Kelvin was one of the liveliest volunteers who dedicated his time to speaking with patients and rallying them around to come in and visit us to talk about how they were doing and/or speaking up about any issues, compliments, concerns they had whilst being an inpatient on the mental health ward.

It is no secret that Kelvin used to be a patient, both at Bronllys for some time but also at “Mid Wales Hospital”. He was known, far and wide, by staff and other people in contact with services, volunteers and members of the public. Everyone seemed to know Kelvin. I don’t think he ever met a stranger. If he didn’t know you, he’d know all about you within minutes, and you’d know about him! He would have treated you to a story or two, shared some history, told a joke (quite often “politically incorrect”) and laugh hilariously so you had no choice but to laugh with him. He was incredibly generous and very funny, sometimes without meaning to be.

Kelvin at a PMHA trustee meeting in 2010 with fellow trustee Jill Dibling
I remember fondly some of the PMHA Trustee meetings, when trying to have a serious conversation about some order of business, Kelvin would break out the crisps from his rucksack (which he was never without) and start to share them out, not caring a whit about whether it was the right time for a break. Kelvin could get quite passionate about rights and would tell you straight if he thought something wasn’t right. He wasn’t shy about saying what needed to happen - he expected people to step up to the plate and do what was necessary.

Kelvin's Poems & Jokes page in the PMHA newsletter

He was a nostalgic and used to quite often tell stories of his time in Mid Wales Hospital and the fun and community they had. He spoke about his catering experience and I know from attending his funeral, and hearing some more about his life, that he was a very good cook. I believe he used to volunteer/cook with Mid Powys Mind on occasion.

Before going into Bronllys Hospital for our meetings with patients, we’d always have lunch, the volunteers and I, and have a bit of a briefing about issues we’d picked up from the last meeting and actions that had taken place. Kelvin was known to the staff at “The Honey CafĂ©” where he would chat away to them as if they were his friends. He would order the same thing always, a cheese sandwich, a cup of coffee and an apple or berry tart with vanilla ice cream, all to come at the same time. He is the only person I knew who could stand whilst having a cup of coffee in one hand, a cigarette in another and fall asleep - an incredible feat of balance.

Despite Kelvin’s physical ailments, he would always be ready to come to Patients’ Council and looked forward to his outings. He was always telling me about ways of saving the public purse and would speak quite often about the amount of money being spent on services and whether it was really value for money. He made me reflect on how things were and are now.

I think Kelvin always sought for ways to belong, to local community. He was incredibly attached to Llandrindod Wells Football Club and used to go to games with his Dad. He was dedicated to helping the club in many ways. He was also a bit of a rock and roller, liked wearing leather jackets, jeans and loved Elvis Presley and was seriously attached to watching Westerns.

Gravel Baptist Chapel
People I’ve spoken to remember Kelvin very fondly. One of the Senior Managers at Bronllys mentioned a Christmas on the ward she’d never forget, especially given what Kelvin had bought for all the nurses!

We will miss Kelvin. We will miss his laughter, his humour, his stories and his abilities to break down the barriers of what is expected and the unusual. He took risks without knowing he showed us how to push the boundaries. He didn’t do what was usual and yet he was so very familiar. He wasn’t silent and sometimes his stories meant you got lost or side tracked. I learned to be patient with him as he sometimes wouldn’t take no for an answer. He demanded respect and well, he deserved it. His life, whilst too short, packed a punch, I’ll never forget him.

There is a saying at the end of the novel, “Middlemarch” which I feel appropriate to end with (and have taken some liberties of changing some words).... "His full nature spent itself in deeds which left no great name on the Earth, but the effect of his being on those around him was uncapturable. For the growing good of the World is partly dependant on unhistoric acts, and on all those people who live faithfully their hidden lives and rest in unvisited tombs.”

Kelvin lies at rest in Gravel Baptist Church’s graveyard, overlooking the peaceful countryside near Llangunllo. I’d like to think he won’t rest in an unvisited tomb…

RIP Kelvin Mills: died 6 May 2017, aged 59 years.


  1. I didn't know Kelvin very well but did meet him a few times through PAVO participation work. This is a lovely tribute. It sounds like he will be much missed.

  2. I shall miss his unforgettable character; the world has lost a mental health hero. Au revoir Kelvin