Keith Mills with George H.W. Bush. Photos courtesy Mills family.

Keith Mills, a Secret Service officer who protected the late President George H.W. Bush and former President George W. Bush, died Sunday. He was 50.

Mills died while he was training during his shift at Walker’s Point in Kennebunkport, according to his brother, Todd Mills of Gorham. The Medical Examiner’s Office has conducted an autopsy to determine his cause of death. Mills’ death at the Bush compound is considered a line-of-duty death.

A service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Laurel Hill Cemetery in Saco with a heavy presence from local law enforcement agencies, troopers from the Maine State Police and Secret Service agents.

Mills, an Arundel resident, joined the Secret Service around 2002 and served at Walker’s Point as part of the protection detail for both Bush presidents and their families.

Mills was remembered this week as a consummate professional who dedicated his life to his work and family.

“Laura and I were saddened by the sudden loss of Keith Mills,” former President George W. Bush said in a statement. “Keith was a dedicated public servant and exemplary member of the United States Secret Service. My family had the good fortune of knowing Keith well, and now our thoughts are with Keith’s family – particularly his children. We join them in mourning the loss of a kind, funny, patriotic man.”

Keith Mills

Paul H. Maurer, special agent in charge of the George W. Bush Protective Division, released a statement Friday saying the Secret Service had lost a highly respected member of its family.

“Special Officer Keith Mills will always be remembered as a kind, selfless and dedicated friend to his Secret Service colleagues,” Maurer wrote. “Keith’s life of service and the legacy of his law enforcement career will not be forgotten.”

Jean Becker, former chief of staff for George H.W. Bush, said Thursday that Mills was devoted to the former president and first lady and to his job.

Becker said Mills was always at Walker’s Point when she traveled from Houston to Kennebunkport with the president, the first lady and their aides. Becker said they were like family. She said the Bushes were close to their agents and were interested in their lives.

“The Secret Service were so integral to the Bushes,” Becker said. “Good grief, Mrs. Bush ran a bed-and-breakfast at Walker’s Point. There were always people coming and going. They entertained a lot. Honestly, it was wild. People like Keith Mills and the other officers were the ones that helped keep it all sane. Keith was a big part of that.”

Mills had a long and distinguished career in law enforcement. He became a corrections officer with the York County Sheriff’s Office at 18 and then served as a reserve officer with the Ogunquit Police Department. In 1992, he joined the Kennebunkport Police Department as a patrolman. He attained the rank of sergeant before leaving the department to join the Secret Service in 2002.

Mills’ job as a special officer took him all over the world.

Kristan King Nevins of Washington, D.C., a former aide to Barbara Bush, said Mills was a gentle giant who looked out for her and other aides. Nevins said when the president and first lady traveled overseas, Mills ran the command post. She laughed, recalling the many times she would walk into the command center tired and hungry.

“Keith would say, ‘Do you need a beef jerky stick?’ He always had beef jerky in his backpack,” Nevins said. “I never turned one down. It was just his nature to take care of others.”

Mills was a firearms expert and a certified rescue diver for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. He was an instructor at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy, and taught classes at other federal and local law enforcement agencies.

Todd Mills spoke of the relationship his brother had with their father, Jon A. Mills, a career law enforcement officer in southern Maine.

“My brother idolized my father,” Todd Mills said. “The only job my brother ever wanted was to be police officer and to be in the Secret Service. It comes from emulating who my dad was and what he was. It came to fruition as far as what he wanted to accomplish.”

Keith Mills with his two children, Evan and Avery

Though Mills leaves a legacy in his work, his greatest legacy was being a father to his two children, Evan Mills, who turns 15 on Tuesday, and Avery Mills, 12.

Mills former wife, Ashley Padget of Kennebunk, broke down in tears Friday recalling his devotion to their kids.

She said Mills went to every practice and game he could and called the kids every day.

“His life was his kids,” Padget said. “My son completed his black belt. Keith was there every single step of the way. He was so proud of Evan. My daughter has 15 or 20 voicemails on her phone she’s been playing over and over. They were his life.”

In the days since Mills’ death, his family has received an outpouring of support. Todd Mills said his brother was level-headed, humble and intelligent, but also really funny and a prankster. He said his brother was the type of person who kept in touch with friends his whole life.

“He was an incredible person,” his brother said. “He was always there. I talked to him every day. It didn’t matter if he was traveling or I was traveling. He was constantly in my life. He was the type of guy if something was going on, you could count on him to be there. He would mediate or in the toughest of times, he would give you a dry zinger to break the ice. Even if you were crying, you would break into a laugh. That’s what I’ll miss about him. I looked up to him.”

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