Remembering Steve Mills

The juggling world has lost one of its best-known names. Steve Mills was born in 1957 in Marion, Ohio. He was famous for creating the popular, complex three-ball pattern, Mills Mess. For many years, he had an act with his family that featured many unicycle tricks mixed with juggling.


Growing up in Morristown, NJ, Steve learned to juggle in 1972 from well-known mathematician and juggler Ronald Graham. This happened when Steve and his neighbor, Tim Kapp, who had already taught Steve to unicycle, went to the local YMCA to learn to trampoline. Instead, they met Graham and learned to juggle from him. Within seven months, Mills was working on seven balls. He quickly progressed to clubs and never stopped juggling. Steve competed in various events in the IJA competitions in the 1970s, winning events in 1975, 1976, and 1978.

In 1975 or 1976, Steve was experimenting with three ball patterns with Ron Graham and Ronald Lubman. Lubman did a one-sided trick that Steve then took and mirrored on both sides. This became what was later named by others as Mills Mess. This pattern went on to become one of the most famous juggling patterns in the world.

Mills’ two other biggest contributions to juggling history were the creation of the four club scissor pattern and the creation of the long-handled European club, which he did by modifying a Dube European. When Steve showed Brian Dube the modified club, Brian liked it and began producing them. Steve was a big supporter of Brian Dube’s prop making.

Steve was also an occasional juggling coach, working with Sean Blue, among others.

Steve married Carol Haines in 1978 and performed a juggling and unicycling act with her. Eventually their children Michelle and Tony joined the act.

Steve and Carol

Steve, Carol, Michelle, and Tony

Unfortunately, about ten years ago, Steve started to suffer from some severe mental illness issues that greatly impacted others. He had always been a ball of energy, with a high octane and offbeat personality, but his mental health issues quickly escalated into what many would describe as erratic, unpredictable, and hurtful behavior. Eventually Steve and Carol divorced. Steve did get married again earlier this year in Florida.

While Steve was certainly a controversial member of the juggling community, he leaves behind many who considered him a dear friend. His contributions to the juggling world will live on for many years.

David Cain is a professional juggler, juggling historian, and the owner of the world's only juggling museum, the Museum of Juggling History. He is a Guinness world record holder and 16 time IJA gold medalist. In addition to his juggling pursuits, David is a successful composer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and singer as well as the author of twenty-six books. He and his children live in Middletown, OH (USA).

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