Sheila Coffin Bills

Sheila Coffin Bills

    Sheila Coffin Bills “had friends around the world, and deserved them,” according to her family. Ms. Bills, a former college professor, died at her house in East Hampton on June 30. She was 92, and had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease 10 years ago.
    Ms. Bills was “all about art,” said a son, Charles (Chick) Gordon Bills of East Hampton. She retired in 1988 from the Cleveland Institute of Art, where she taught art history.
    Born on Oct. 16, 1920, a daughter of the former Helen (Peggy) Powers and Eugene Augustus Coffin, an admiral in the United States Coast Guard, Ms. Bills lived in various places as a child, depending on her father’s postings. She attended American University in Washington, D.C., before graduating from the University of California at Los Angeles with a B.A. and later a master’s degree. A member of Phi Beta Kappa, she also held a Ph.D. from Case Western Reserve University in Ohio.
    She married James Ford (Mike) Bills, a captain in the Coast Guard, on Feb. 26, 1941, and continued her world travels, stationed with him in Hawaii, Florida, California, South Carolina, New York, and Guam. Mr. Bills died in 1993.
    His mother was “always gracious, charming, and generous,” said Chick Bills. When he was a child, he said, she read him books by C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien for bedtime stories, introduced him to musicians and artists, watched him surf, and took him on trips to Tibet and China, and to see Mayan culture.    
    “She loved her husband and her children and knowledge,” Mr. Bills said. And, he said, “she loved to have fun.”
    Also surviving are their mother and another son, Terrence Michael Bills of Ketchikan, Ak., and a daughter, Linda Gail Bills of Erie, Pa. She also leaves a sister, Lynne Schenk of Los Angeles.
    Ms. Bills was cremated. Her ashes will be dispersed at sea in the Aleutian Islands, where her husband was buried at sea in a Coast Guard ceremony.