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Zimri E. Mills

Zimri MillsB.S. Agricultural Engineering 1950

Zimri Mills was born in 1924 in Wilder, Idaho, and second in a family of seven children. His parents were part of the homestead movement of the early 1900s and became Idaho farmers. Mills lettered in football and basketball, was student body president and acted in school plays. He graduated in 1943 from Wilder High School.

Mills went directly into the U.S. Army and was assigned to anti-aircraft artillery basic training at Camp Callen, California, and then sent to the University of Oregon to become an officer in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. However, in early 1944 with the warning of an imminent invasion of Europe, he was re-assigned to an operating unit at Camp Cook, California, the 11th Armored Division of the Armored Infantry Battalion. In December of 1944, he was sent to France where he joined in the fight of the Battle of the Bulge under General George Patton. Mills was wounded by shrapnel in his legs and discharged in July 1945.

Upon returning to the states, Mills farmed briefly with his father, but his injuries made farming difficult and he decided to get an education. He attended the University of Idaho and became a member of the engineering honor society, Sigma Tau, and within three years completed a BS in agricultural engineering.
In the summer of 1949, Mills worked as a trainee of the United States Department of Agriculture’s Soil Conservation Service (now called the Natural Resources Conservation Service) and began his professional career as a soil engineer in Caldwell, Idaho, providing technical assistance to farmers and other private landowners and managers. In 1951, he was transferred to Shoshone, Idaho, and worked in Lincoln, Gooding, Blaine, and Camas counties. Two years later, he was transferred to Portland, Oregon, to work as a hydrologist for the western region. Mills was transferred back to Idaho after the Oregon offices closed and worked in irrigation and drainage work, eventually also working in hydrologic engineering for Idaho and Nevada.
In 1959, Mills was transferred to Amherst, Massachusetts, where he worked for the State of Massachusetts as an engineer working on watershed protection for small watersheds. His primary activity included the planning, design and construction of flood control dams, mostly earth-filled dams.

In 1963, a U-Idaho college friend started the Trus Joist Corporation in Boise, Idaho, and persuaded Mills to join the group as a Trus Joist engineer. Trus Joist at the time specialized in light wood structural elements, primarily for roof and floor systems. The innovative design of the system was not governed by standard wood engineering criteria, so special approvals were required from regulatory bodies to use this pioneering technology.

Mills was part of the Trus Joist engineering team that developed unique (their own) grading guidelines for the wood, design values and manufacturing standards. This required the testing, analysis and defense of new standards to the building code authorities. Mills, together with his colleagues, developed the specialized manufacturing standards for the Trus Joist technology, including having to create the literature for engineers and architects and installation instructions for builders.

Trus Joist systems were primarily installed on roof and/or floor systems on spans of 28 to 100 feet. They continually upgraded their designs which again required additional proof of testing and evaluation for regulatory bodies to approve.

Over a period of several years Trus Joist developed a complete product line and sold it throughout the United States, Canada and, eventually in Sweden, Germany and England. The largest roofing system that they developed and installed, which won the American Society of Civil Engineer’s Outstanding Structural Achievement Award in 1976, was the indoor stadium at the University of Idaho, the Kibbie Dome, in Moscow, Idaho. This structure had a 400 foot clear span, with a clearance above the playing field equivalent to a twelve story building and at that time was the largest indoor college facility in the nation. Many recognized this achievement as a masterpiece where talent, technology, vision and commitment were manifest in a unique creation and Trus Joist’s barrel arch stadium cover received worldwide recognition.
Mills was active in the American Society of Testing Materials where he helped to develop many standards of wood design and fire prevention. He was also active in the Society of Professional Engineers and served on the University of Idaho Engineering Advisory Board.

In 1947, he married Fidelia Zabala and they had a daughter and son. Fidelia passed away in 1955 and Mills a year later married Maizie McClaran Anno, whose husband, a mining engineer, had been killed in a mining accident. Maizie has a son. They started life together with three children, Bryan, Delynn and Robert, who all subsequently graduated from Borah High School in Boise. Delynn attended the University of Idaho and Bryan and Robert attended Boise State University. They are all married now and Zimrie and Maizie have six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

As a family they enjoy skiing, fishing, hunting and golf. Zimrie and Maizie who reside in Boise enjoy playing bridge. They have traveled worldwide to most continents, visiting many of the continent’s diverse countries.