On Monday, October 23, 2023, surrounded by the love of her family, Mildred "Millie" Tonn peacefully passed away at the age of 90. Millie's life was a tapestry of love, passion, and dedication to her family, her faith, her community, and the pursuit of knowledge.
Millie was born on August 24, 1933, in her parents' home in Burton, Texas, to Christian Wilhelm and Minnie Hopmann Buck. She grew up in Burton, attending St. John's Evangelical Church and graduating from Burton High School. Her goal was to become an elementary school teacher and reading specialist.
At Blinn College in Brenham, Millie met her college sweetheart, Elsworth "El" Tonn. They both graduated from the University of Texas at Austin, and they married on June 5, 1955. Together, they embarked on a journey that took them across the United States during El's service in the US Army and his work with various oil and gas companies. They welcomed their daughter, Melissa, in Ardmore, Oklahoma, and their son, Kelton, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, creating a tight-knit family filled with love and laughter. In 1968, they returned to their beloved Texas, where they would spend over 50 years together in Houston.
Millie's career in education spanned decades, leaving a lasting impact on countless students in Spring Branch, Killeen, Abilene, Ardmore, and Houston. Her dedication extended even further as she spent five years teaching preschool at the Jewish Community Center in Houston. In 1985, Millie earned her Master's in Reading Education from Houston Christian University, further enriching her ability to inspire young minds.
Her commitment to community was unwavering. Millie was actively involved with the Geological Society Auxiliaries (then "Ladies Auxiliaries") in the oil patch towns where she and El lived, serving in various capacities, including as an officer, board member, and president. She also lent her leadership skills to the Houston Petroleum Auxiliary Council, where she proudly served as 1st Vice President in 2008 and as President in 2009.
Millie's spiritual journey was an essential part of her life. She found fulfillment in her involvement with the churches she attended throughout her life. From her early days playing the organ and singing in the choir at St. John's in Burton, to teaching Sunday school and singing in the choir in Abilene and Tulsa, to her 15 years of service on Alter Guild and as a charter member of the Daughters of the King and President of the St. Barnabus Chapter at St. Martin's Episcopal Church in Houston, her faith was a guiding light. Millie also led Christian Life Bible study at St. Martin's where her spiritual leadership touched many hearts.
Beyond her educational and community pursuits, Millie had a love for music and could play the accordion, singing songs in German and English. She was a philharmonic singer, and her joyful melodies uplifted those around her. She loved to cook, was a voracious reader, and a collector of bright, colorful, uniquely shaped bird houses.
Preceded in death by her parents, her brother, Gilbert Buck, and her husband Elsworth, Millie is survived by her daughter, Melissa Tonn, MD, and son-in-law, William J. Minick III of Dallas, along with their children: Kyle, Andrew, and Sophie Minick, and great-grandson William Finch Minick. She is also survived by her son, Kelton Tonn, and daughter-in-law, Kelli of Houston, along with their daughters: Kathleen and Kennedy Tonn. Additionally, she is survived by her niece, Karen Buck of Burton, and Karen's sons, R.C. and Jonathan Nelson, as well as Millie's nephew, Christian Buck of Modesto, California.
Millie's legacy is one of love, learning, faith, and service. Her zest for life, dedication to education, and unwavering commitment to her community and faith will forever be celebrated and cherished by those who had the privilege of knowing her. Millie's bright spirit will continue to inspire generations to come.
In celebration of Millie's life, a grave side service will be held at Eben-Ezer Lutheran Church in Brenham on Saturday, November 4, at 11 am.
Funeral arrangements have been entrusted to Memorial Oaks Chapel, 1306 West Main St., Brenham. To post a tribute to the family, please visit www.memorialoakschapel.com.