Joseph Anthony Milia

April  27th, 1934 February  17th, 2024
Cupertino California
Joseph Anthony Milia

Let us honor and remember him by keeping his memory and legacy alive within us. Please share your memories and stories on the "memory wall" and help us reminisce on how he changed our lives for the better. 

Obituary

With heavy hearts we announce the passing of our beloved father, grandfather, and friend, Joseph Anthony Milia, on February 17th, 2024 at the age of 89. He is survived by two sons, Jeff and Cary Milia, daughter, Siena Hansen, and six grandchildren. Words cannot adequately express our collective love and admiration for him and our sorrow at saying goodbye.
       
      Joseph was born on April 27th, 1934, the first child of Madeline and Joseph Milia, followed ten years later by his younger brother, Gaeton. Growing up in the foothills of San Mateo, California, Joe and his brother were the second generation of Italian immigrants to be born and raised in the Bay Area. As a student Joe played basketball for San Mateo High School, inspiring a life-long love of the game. He was affectionately voted “best dressed” by his classmates and universally admired for his easy going and sociable nature. During this time, a singular high school teacher both inspired and encouraged him to pursue a college degree and to become a teacher himself. Joe went on to become the first college graduate in his family earning a B.S. Degree in Education from San Francisco State.

      Joe was truly a man of infinite variety–someone who valued the beauty and richness of life. Around his home there is the eclectic evidence of a life-long collector of books, art, sculpture, and photographs, each a curated piece of his personality. An amateur artist himself, he enjoyed sketching abstract portraits in the vein of Picasso. More than anything, though, his passion lay in book collecting. Every wall of his home was lined with bookshelves brimming with rare, antique, and valuable volumes. Having been a rare book dealer for most of his life, Joe knew more about the world of rare books than most ever will.

      An accomplished photographer, Joe lived some of his favorite days behind the lens of an old Nikon on the coast of Big Sur or the forests of Yosemite or the ghost town of Bodie. He found joy in mentoring both his close friends and his children in visualizing and capturing the macro world. When gusts of wind frustrated a friend’s carefully framed shot, Joe gave some valuable life advice wrapped in photographic terms, “When the wind blows, take pictures of the wind!” What better gift can one bestow on another than the miracle of seeing the world from a different perspective?

      Joe continually bestowed this valuable gift of perspective on his students as a social studies teacher at Menlo Atherton High School, San Carlos High School, and Redwood Continuation High School for over 40 years, 1958-1998. Known by his students as Mr. Milia, Joe was a soft spoken and personable instructor with a passion for inspiring young people to think critically and achieve their best in whatever they pursued. As an historian, Joe was a meticulous collector of historical anecdotes that gave life and vitality to dates and events and a deeper appreciation for the human drama of history. Any of his former students would tell you that Mr. Milia’s classes were highly coveted because he had a special way of teaching and connecting with his students’ hearts and minds that often left a lifelong impression. Teaching was truly his greatest calling and his greatest love.

      For fifty-five years Joe and his colleagues and friends have come together once a month to play poker. Joe’s persona at the poker table, as in his life, was characterized by an unwavering optimism, hoping against the odds that the next card would transform a mediocre hand into an unexpectedly winning one. He was ever the positive optimist. The intellectual debates and the candid camaraderie of these peers was one of his greatest joys.

      Joe was beloved by all who knew him, but none loved him more than his children and grandchildren. He had the unique opportunity to be a father twice, first to his sons early in life and then to his daughter much later in life. As a father he is most fondly remembered for his generosity and unfailing support, for hikes and photography hunts, trout fishing, and lunch dates. As a grandfather he was beloved for his sense of fun, for endless rounds of poker, garage sales, book shops, and stories. He would often comment in his last years that he saw the real legacy of his life in the faces of his grandchildren–in who they are and in who they will become. The impact of his love and devotion to his family will carry on for generations to come. 

Gallery

Memory wall

Please take a moment to share your memories and stories of Joe with his family and friends. He touched all of our lives for good and we would love to have a repository of these memories to share with the next generation. You can write your story below by clicking on the "contribute" button and please share a photo of yourself or Joe if possible. 


June 10, 2024
So many wonderfully positive things to remember about this most admired man. I had him as a senior, class of 74’. (Kathy Thomson) I could go on and on and repeat the sentiments already expressed here, but I won’t. Instead, I’ll share a little bit of trivia with regard to Mr. Milia. He loved Jamoca Almond Fudge ice cream from Baskin Robbins. He shared with our class how much he loved it and would often stop on his way home from school for a scoop. One afternoon, my girlfriends and I went to the one there in San Carlos and waited for him. Sure enough, there he was! He bought us all the scoop of our choice.
Such a fine man. My sympathies.
Kathy Dal Broi Wesolek
April 21, 2024
I loved him. He was a wonderful teacher so sorry to hear of your loss. He shared his beautiful photography with me. I made him a ring. I do believe it was an owl.
Judith Maich
March 27, 2024
I was so lucky to have Joe as my teacher at San Carlos High School. He was my favorite teacher and I will always be grateful to have had Joe as a teacher and mentor. He loved teaching and cared deeply about his students. I will always remember his smile and how positive he always was. I hope knowing what a positive impact he has had on so many lives brings you comfort during this difficult time of loss.
Linda Castillo
March 9, 2024
Joe was our neighbour for the last three years and it has been such a pleasure to know him. He was very kind to all of us with occasional treats of tiramisu for the grown ups and books and fire engines for our son. He will be missed!
Rabea Graepel
March 3, 2024
I have been lucky to live right next-door to Joe for the past 25 years. I remember seeing Siena ride her bicycle around out front in the early years. Joe was one of the rare neighbors who not only would always smile and wave but would always be available to stop and chat. Too often now people are too busy to look up let alone have a short conversation. A couple of years ago Joe rescued me from my own balcony. I accidentally locked myself on the upstairs balcony, taking down some Halloween decorations. I called Joe and he kindly stopped what he was doing and walked through my house to let me back in. Joe was also kind enough to spread his love of books to our family. On more than one occasion, he gifted some books to my children. We will miss Joe so very much. Sending love to his family.
Kathy Navone
March 1, 2024
I will always remember Mr. Milia. Sociology, San Carlos High School 1981. He was very special to all of us. Dynamic with a sense of calm. Smart and engaging. One of the best. We were truly blessed at San Carlos High School to have remarkable teachers.
Class of 1981.
Kimberly Woodhall
February 27, 2024
I’ve been so blessed to know Joe over the past 17 years. From our first meeting, he has welcomed me into his life and family. I loved to learn from him about books and history, religion and politics, and the wealth of experience he accumulated through his thoughtful, selfless life.

From lunches at Gumba’s and the Vietnamese hole in the wall on Steven’s Creek to Mizu and the Mexican restaurant in Saratoga where I asked him if I could marry Siena, I never ate better than when I was with Joe. And the company was always even better than the food.

When I joined Joe’s family, I brought with me a disdain for tomatoes. But one of my favorite memories is shopping a farmers market one Saturday morning with Joe and Siena. They bought fresh tomatoes, avocados, and sourdough, and—despite my hesitation—we went back to his place where he made sliced tomatoes and avocados on toast, with just the right amount of pepper and salt (although more than I’m sure his doctor would have liked!). It was delicious, and in all the years since, I rarely eat a fresh tomato without thinking of Joe.

Joe gave the best gifts. Treasured books, great biographies, watches, little treasures he accumulated over a lifetime of garage saling and antiquing, he was always generous and very intentional with what he chose to give. The thought and insight it shared about who I am was always worth far more than any monetary value, and the love it engendered will last forever.

Many of the best books I’ve read have been books from Joe. In that sense, I guess I got to experience just a bit of the educational magic Mr. Milia used to inspire and teach thousands of students over his 40 years as a teacher. And don’t ever bet against Joe, in Trivial Pursuit or poker, in his laid back, unassuming way, he always played to win but never lost sight of helping others find joy in the game.

Grandpa Joe brought all these gifts and so much more to how he loved his grandchildren, including Joey and more recently, my five children—Cyrus, Peter, Esther, Emma, and Ava. He is their Mr. Rogers—working his way into their hearts and minds with his gift of teaching, uplifting, mentoring, healing, and entertaining. He gave them (and all of us) his time. Sitting, listening, talking, playing, setting aside the business of life to truly be with them, focused and intentional with no agenda other than learning about them and their lives and finding ways to share a little joy or nugget of wisdom. He shaped them with his selfless love in a way that will echo for eternity and that they will cherish for the rest of their lives.

More than anything, Joe played such an incredible role raising Siena. He was always there for her, supporting her however she needed, partnering with Dixie in ways large and small to provide a loving, caring, and inspiring home to help Siena grow into the inquisitive, adventurous, kind, and spiritual woman she is and that I am lucky enough to get to love and cherish throughout life and eternity.

Joe never asked any of us for much in return. He just quietly and consistently gave of himself to make all of our lives—and through us and countless others—the world a much better place. What a great example we all can commit to emulate in honor of him.

Thank you Joe. I know you’re enjoying this next adventure as much as you did your wonderful life. I look forward to the day we meet again and for the second time, you can be my guide and mentor, out a few decades ahead sharing your experience and perspective to help me and my family continue down our path. And in the meantime, thank you for being our guardian angel, keeping an eye out for us with an occasional intervention, or at least a winning hand now and again.

Love,

Miles
Miles Hansen
February 26, 2024
Oh Siena. 💜 I am so sorry for your loss. I am grateful for the happy memories hanging out at your dad's and the pool. He was a really great guy. I think about your dad's house every time I eat walnuts actually. Everything is energy so his energy will always be with you.
Courtney Tharp
February 26, 2024
Oh, Siena I am so sorry to hear this. I know how much he loved you and your family! Hugs to you! I sure enjoyed those many years helping Joe!
Barbara Watts Hurst
February 26, 2024
What a treasure your dad was for all of you. Hugs and prayers for all of you. You were blessed to have been able to visit him so often, good memories for your family. Your boys look so much like your Dad, especially Peter. TIL you meet again..💕🙏
Joan Fuller
February 26, 2024
Mr. Milia was my teacher too. I still have my “blank” book which was like a diary but so much more. SCHS Class of 1974!
Elaine Piparo
February 25, 2024
He was my Psych teacher in '74. Great teacher and super nice guy. Really enjoyed his class. Condolences to the family.
John Cnfrti
February 25, 2024
My recollection is that he was a sweet guy. The photo does him justice. So sorry for his loss. My sincere condolences.
Roger Welte
February 25, 2024
I had him as a teacher back in 1979. He was a good teacher and friend. I had actually thought of him around the same time that he passed.
George Betsekas
February 25, 2024
He was a favorite teacher of mine. Really made an impression. Prayers for your family.
Beth Conway
February 23, 2024
My husband Craig and I are honored to share with Joe five wonderful grandchildren and his beautiful daughter Siena. When Siena married our son Miles we not only were blessed to welcome Siena but also Joe into our family. Joe visited us several times through the years and he was always so kind, gracious, and warm. We enjoyed our conversations and were impressed by his depth of character and knowledge. He expressed often how his family, Siena, Miles, and their children were the light of his life and how much he loved his sons and sweet grandchild. Books are valuable and important to me and I found Joe’s collection intriguing and wanted the opportunity to have Joe show and tell me about his collection. It is easy to see where our shared grandsons, granddaughters and Siena get their good looks! We remember one time when Joe was visiting we all took the grandkids fishing together. Such fun and it was evident Joe loved to fish. Great memories! Our association with Joe Milia has been a blessing, an honor and privilege. We will miss him and wish distance had not kept us from seeing him recently but we know we will see him again. There is sorrow in his passing and absence but joy in having Joseph Milia and his beautiful family in our lives.
With Love,
Gloria and Craig Hansen
Gloria H. Hansen
February 23, 2024
I absolutely adored him and he truly was my favorite teacher. He introduced the blank books to us and taught us how to reflect inwardly, get in touch with our feelings, and use psychology in our daily interactions. He was full of grace, taught us that understanding creates acceptance and that kindness wins. I still have my blank book from his class. These books and our entries became reflections of our personal growth. I have always continued to think about him, and wonder how he was doing throughout my lifetime. He was a beautiful soul and he passed that beauty and his understanding on to us. He had us read thought provoking literature and to this day, I have kept most of those books. He truly helped shape our beliefs and way to live. My condolences to you and your family for your great loss of this wonderful man. He is a shining example of a life well lived. Love and hugs.
Sandra Fulghum Schoof
Sandra Fulghum Schoof
February 23, 2024
Joe was one of our beloved teachers in Ilios. I had a couple of mini-classes with him. Your picture captures his positive, friendly spirit. He was such a gentle, calming presence for many of us and such a fantastic listener! I am so sorry to hear of his passing. Deepest condolences to your family.
Susie Aguilar
February 22, 2024
Joe Milia was my social studies teacher for one year, class of '74. If I'm not mistaken, he used to take us out to study on the lawn on nice days. One of my favorite SCHS teachers. He will be missed. Thanks for posting.
Wayne Spence
February 22, 2024
He was one of my favorite teachers…rest in peace🙏Mr Milia.
Lavern Colgate
February 22, 2024
There were many outstanding teachers in the SCHS social studies department. Joe was one of the greatest.
Jim MacKenzie
February 22, 2024
I was in his class. He was a great instructor and a real nice guy. Class of '74. So very sorry for your loss.
John Binkley
February 22, 2024
I remember him well. Amazing teacher and person.
Darcy Benson
February 22, 2024
So sorry for your family’s loss. Prayers of comfort to all the lives he touched. I didn’t have him as a teacher, but I remember his smile. May he rest in peace. 🙏🏻
Suzy Barnett Soteriou
February 22, 2024
He was an phenomenal teacher. One of the few I remember to this day.
Carla Martin Hashagen
February 22, 2024
I remember his big smile, a twinkle in his eye, and a positive feeling he gave everyone he passed in the hallways. Class of ‘81. My condolences to those who loved him.
Amy Ruegg
February 22, 2024
I never had him as a teacher but I remember that broad smile and wonderful mustache!
Karen McGann
February 22, 2024
"Mr. Milia" was perhaps my favorite teacher at SCHS. I don't think I ever called him "Joe" but I want to call him that now, because he seemed like a friend as well as a teacher. He would play basketball with my PE class (he wasn't the coach). We were usually on the same court or team, and enjoyed passing the ball to each other. There was this easy kindness about him. Thanks for being there Joe (I mean "Mr. Milia")!!
Eric Forno
February 22, 2024
I had him and enjoyed his class. If I'm not mistaken I think he handed out Blank books with white covers, the purpose was to write down our thoughts. I think I still have mine somewhere in the rafters of the garage. My condolences and prayers to the family!
Class of 74!🙏🙏🙏

From Lynette Ann Nappi: Yes! I still have my blank book. I’d forgotten that it was from Mr. Milia’s class.
Jerilyn Tuxford Beesley
February 22, 2024
The memories of some teachers fade through the years, but the memories of having Mr. Milia as a teacher at SCHS will last a lifetime. Memories of "blank books" and "warm fuzzies" come to mind as he taught us about being positive and caring. I seem to remember he also got some of us out running a bit of cross country too. As a senior in 1973, our class was one that was involved in giving Mr. Milia a surprise "send-off" party/picnic/barbq at Huddart Park as he was preparing to leave on a sabbatical. I will forever be thankful for my time at SCHS and will always remember Mr. Milia for his kindness, positivity, warm smile...and let's not forget that mustache :) My sincere condolences to his family.
Nancy Newman McKenzie
February 22, 2024
Such a great teacher! I had him for Social Studies. Class of ‘74
Barbara Maggiora
February 22, 2024
One of my favorite teachers. I was in his class my junior year, 1973-74. My thoughts are with your family.
Wendy Preston Perston
February 22, 2024
Such a special man and teacher. I was in his class my junior year 1977-78. He was kind and patient and supported me during a particularly difficult time. We were blessed to have him and my thoughts go out to his family.
Lona Andrey
February 22, 2024
He was a favorite teacher of mine at SCHS class of '81. ❤️ I remember him fondly to this day. My condolences to you and your family.
David Story
February 21, 2024
Travel to any community where humans have lived and died and you will find a cemetery where people erect monuments to mortal loved ones. From the elaborate tombs and statuary of the Cementerio Recoleta in Buenos Aires to the simple wooden crosses in the ghost town of Bodie there are markers of past inhabitants. Joe Milia was my photography mentor, a seer who taught me how to " see,” not only the visual, surface beauty but also the interior essence of the physical world. One of our favorite destinations on the many photography excursions we took was the Grandview Camping ground, high in the White Mountains of eastern California. At 11,000 feet in a harsh environment of wind, snow and cold, the main attraction for us was the bristlecone pine, a unique living thing that inspired in us both awe and humility. Here’s a brief description: “It’s difficult to know whether it's alive or dead. Bristlecone Pines achieve their extreme life spans by growing incredibly slowly in dry, subalpine climates with highly alkaline soil: the most ancient specimen has been estimated to be 5,067 years old. Their wood is extremely dense and their “sectored architecture” allows strips of the tree to live, when other nearly indistinguishable parts have died.” One science writer argues “you have to look past its leaves and even its bark; you have to go
deep into its trunk, where the chronicles of its long life lie secreted away like a library’s lost scrolls.” One tree in particular drew us under its spell. We must have taken close to a hundred pictures. At moments like this obsession becomes a gift, and we scurried around this monument to nature’s resilience like inspired apostles. Later, back at the campground, after finishing our attempts to get the tree’s spirit, we shared our thoughts, reflecting not only on the objective tree but how it opened up a constellation of questions of what it meant to be human and a part of a much larger composition in the universe.
Robert Farina
February 21, 2024
For me as a San Carlos High School colleague and later grandfathered-in as a "Poker Wife", Joe was always the smiling presence - generous with compliments and support. After retirement, when he had his book business, he passed on books about my home town Pomona as well as my alma mater, Pomona College. He was a beloved teacher at San Carlos High, and yearbook pictures feature him almost always surrounded by admiring students. He loved his kids and grandkids, and they loved him back. We ALL are missing Joe, but I will especially miss his kindness and that wonderful smile. Karen
Karen Adair
February 20, 2024
Our hearts are full of gratitude for all the years we had with him and all the wonderful memories we’ve shared. He was a loving father and a doting grandfather. He will be dearly missed by us all but we are also at peace knowing that we will be with him again and that our love transcends time and space. I hope that he is pleasantly surprised that it turns out there is a life after death after all. Here’s to you dad. I love you with all my heart.

"Irrespective of age, we mourn for those loved and lost. Mourning is one of the deepest expressions of pure love. It is a natural response in complete accord with divine commandment: “Thou shalt live together in love, insomuch that thou shalt weep for the loss of them that die.” (D&C 42:45.) Moreover, we can’t fully appreciate joyful reunions later without tearful separations now. The only way to take sorrow out of death is to take love out of life.

— President Nelson
Siena Milia Hansen
February 20, 2024
I first had the privilege of meeting Joe in 1959, my freshman year at Menlo-Atherton. Even in those early years he was known as one of the most respected teachers in the district. Everyone wanted to be in his class. In ‘69 I was hired at San Carlos and Joe came several years later. Let’s just say that we then enjoyed over a half century of labor, laughs and love. I can’t really explain how much he enriched my life, but I can say that he had an enormous influence on me. And for that I will be eternally grateful. Thank you Milia family for loaning him to us for such a long and amazing trip. My very best wishes and deepest condolences. Jim.
JAMES MACKENZIE

Family tree

Giovanna Ammelleri
Gaetano Milia
Anthonio Gazzera
Angelina Menardi
Joseph William Milia
Madeline Gazzera
Full Name
Gatten Milia
Cary Milia
Jeff Milia
Siena Hansen
Gatten Milia
Full Name
Cary Milia
Jeff Milia
Siena Hansen
Joseph Milia

Service


Please join us in paying a final tribute to Joe with a celebration of his life and memory. Your presence would mean a great deal to us during this time of remembrance and reflection.

Below is an invitation link to the services on March 9th, 2024 at 11:00am. If you are able to attend, please follow the link below to RSVP

https://josephmilia.rsvpify.com


Location
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
771 W Fremont Ave, Sunnyvale, CA 94087
Date/time
March 9, 2024  11:00am
Virtual event
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