Milzey Oran Bickley, known most commonly as Milz, 86, died early on the morning of Friday, March 11, 2022, at University Medical Center in Lubbock, Texas, from injuries suffered in a fall near his home in Pep, New Mexico, on March 2.
His life was celebrated by a small circle of family and friends-who-are-family with a private memorial in Portales, following his interment in the Causey Cemetery on Friday, March 18.
Milz was born on July 28, 1935, in Portales, New Mexico, to Calvin and Susie Lee (Copeland) Bickley. He always said he was the first boy baby born in the Hensley Hospital, and since none of us were ever able to confirm or refute that, let’s take it for truth.
At the time of his birth, Milz’s parents and older sister, Lois, lived in Lingo near the Copeland grandparents. He came from a large family on both sides—his mother was one of nine children and his father was one of 12.
When Milz was four, he relocated with his father to a farm in the Floyd community. His schoolteacher mother continued to teach at Lingo until an elementary job became available in Floyd and the family was able to be together again.
After graduating from Floyd High School in 1953, Milz attended both Texas Tech University and Arlington State University.
He joined the United States Army Reserve and was activated with the Berlin Crisis in the late 1950s, with orders to report to New Orleans, Louisiana.
New Orleans ended up becoming his home for more than 30 years. Following his release from the Army Reserve, he went to work for the Greyhound Bus Lines, and spent much of his career as a dispatcher and assistant terminal manager for the New Orleans station.
He loved his time in the Big Easy and developed a lifelong love of good seafood, which he enjoyed sharing with friends and family. His barbecued shrimp became the staple dish for many family celebrations.
It was also during the New Orleans years that Milz had the opportunity to be closely involved with the two nieces who were daughters of his sister. He picked them up from school most days and took them to supper. He relished the hours he spent with them and made lifelong memories that he happily revisited for the rest of his life.
As his widowed mother aged, Milz helped her move to New Orleans so they could be closer. Eventually he made the decision to take early retirement from Greyhound and bring her home to Portales. He managed around-the-clock care for her in their home, and also found time to pursue his desire to help others by becoming involved with the Community Services Center.
It was at the CSC where he met Betty Williamson when they collaborated on a project called “Community as Extended Family.”
They were married on October 23, 1993, at Betty’s family ranch in south Roosevelt County.
Milz and Betty made their home on the ranch, and were delighted to welcome a baby girl, Katie, a couple of years later. Not many men have a newborn the same year they celebrate their 60th birthday, but Milz cherished his opportunity to be a dad.
He found a way to keep at least one horse around for much of his life, and patiently shepherded countless small children (and even some adults) on their first horseback rides.
Throughout his life, and as long as he was able to drive, Milz was active in numerous local organizations, including the Kiwanis Club of Portales, the Milnesand Community Board, the Portales Masonic Lodge, the American Legion, and the First United Methodist Church of Portales.
He was involved for many years with the Roosevelt County Health Council and the Regional Substance Abuse Treatment Initiative and logged many miles and hours in an effort to help secure an alcohol and drug treatment center in eastern New Mexico.
Milz could strike up a conversation with anyone, including complete strangers, much to the dismay of his wife and daughter, who logged plenty of their own hours waiting for him in the car.
In that same spirit though, he reached out to many with financial and housing assistance over the years, and always made sure those who helped him were generously compensated for their efforts.
His parents gifted him with a somewhat unusual and often mispronounced and misspelled name, much to the family’s ongoing amusement. Besides M.O., Milz, and Milzey (all technically correct), variations included Mills, Miles, Mitch, Mike, Mick, Mits, Milt, and our personal favorites, Merle Berkley and Mitzi Brinkley.
Attempting to make things simpler (and because of his legendary gift for gab), Milz often introduced himself by saying, “Think of windmills…tall and windy.”
Milz was preceded in death by his parents, and a slew of aunts, uncles, and cousins from his vast extended family.
Survivors include his wife, Betty Williamson of Pep; a daughter, Katie Williamson Bickley of New Haven, CT; a sister, Lois Carter of Charleston, WV; three nieces, Kathy Hanline of Oak Ridge, TN, Beverly Busch of Seneca, SC, and Chloe Williamson of Jamaica Plain, MA; and numerous beloved cousins, including Pat Crimmins of Lubbock, who was an angel to both Milz and Betty during the last days of his life.
The family is also grateful to their close circle who helped them navigate the challenging years of dementia.
If you wish to honor Milz’s life, we encourage you to reach out and visit with a loved one or consider a contribution to a cause near to your heart or to this one which is near to ours: KENW-TV, 1500 South Avenue K, Portales, NM 88130, the public television station which provided hours of quality programming during our times of being sequestered.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Milzey "Milz" Oran Bickley, please visit our floral store.