Mildred Miller "Millie" Tanner

Areas of Achievement: 

Honored By

Honored by: Jane R. Harvey
Date submitted: December 21, 2006
Gift: Leaf Tile, Medium

Mildred Miller Tanner was a woman ahead of her time. Her story, her character and her partnership with her husband helped to form the mold that still shapes Tanner Companies and Doncaster today.

Co-founder of Doncaster Collar & Shirt Company in 1931, this lady had an entrepreneurial and adventurous spirit. Millie was the Company's first designer; her taste for high quality fabrics and classic style are still the mark of Doncaster garments today.

Later in life with all three of her boys nearby, Millie Tanner had begun to make time for bridge and painting - she was quite proficient in watercolors,. And she went back to her first love, theatre, performing in several local productions and assisting backstage with others.

But she didn't let go of the business entirely. She would come into the office about ten every morning and sit on the floor of Mike's office, reading Women's Wear Daily, or the Charlotte Observer.

"They would sit in that office without a word," says Lou Haynes, who worked as Mike's assistant and is now Customer Service supervisor for Doncaster. "They had such a special relationship."

"I really depended on Mother," Mike explains. "She was like my divining rod when it came to fashion and fabrics."

Millie Tanner was indefatigable when it came to fabric selection in New York City, though it became clear to Mike one particular season in the late 60s that his mother was growing frail. Though she doggedly went from appointment to appointment to view swatches and samples for the next season's materials, she was exhausted by the end of a week of eight-hour days.

As it turned out, Millie Tanner had a heart condition that had never been disclosed to her family, though physicians had suspected the ailment. This elegant woman, who set the standard for all the women who will ever sell Doncaster clothes, died in 1970 in the hospital that sat just up the hill from her home. She would be buried beside her devoted husband in the cemetery on Main Street - the same cemetery that sat across the street from the house she and Bobo, Jr. had first rented when they came to town. Her loss was mourned all across the Doncaster and Tanner operations.

"It was so sudden," Lou Haynes remembers. "We had not been aware that Mrs. Tanner was ill or in the hospital. She had not been coming around as often, but she still had her office. So many people cried that day... when we got the news."