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Top student dies in fall

July 15, 1999|By RICHARD F. BELISLE, Waynesboro

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - A popular Greencastle-Antrim High School honor student and athlete who was on a teen church mission in Kentucky died Wednesday when he fell 82 feet from the top of a waterfall.

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Jonathan Miller, 18, son of W. Jonathan and Cynthia Miller of 11762 Kimberly Drive, was at the top of Bad Branch Falls in Whitesburg, Ky., when he apparently slipped on wet, mossy rocks, said Letcher County, Ky., Coroner Robbie Campbell.

Miller died instantly of massive trauma, Campbell said.

About a dozen young people, mostly Miller's friends from the church group, were with him at the falls. He had gone to the top alone, Campbell said.

Miller, who graduated third in his class this year, was described by family and friends and school and church members as a leader who was well-liked.

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"He was always ready to do something with and for his friends," his father said Thursday. "He was not one to sit around. He took everything as a challenge. He was good to his friends and he was always sociable."

Miller has attended Camp Joy El, a religious camp near Greencastle, for the last 10 years, his father said. "He was a counselor for five years. This year he made senior counselor."

"I hope my son grows up like Jonathan," said Dwight Myers, youth ministries coordinator at Camp Joy El. "He was dependable and thoughtful and he had a lot of friends."

Myers said Miller possessed a spirit of adventure and was always willing to try new things. "He had very strong leadership skills."

Miller was on his high school basketball and track teams and was a member of the National Honor Society. He graduated third in his high school class and planned to attend Messiah College in the fall.

"He was one of the good guys," said James Carbaugh, Miller's high school track coach.

"He was a quiet leader, but a leader. As the lead leg of our 4X100-meter relay team, he led us to victory in the Mid-Penn Colonial League," Carbaugh said.

Carbaugh said Miller was a leader, but was no risk-taker. "This was just an unfortunate accident. It's pretty devastating," he said.

Known for his tenor voice, Miller sang in the Living Miracles, a religious choral group at church, and was a member of the high school Concert Choir and the Choralaires. He was also on the Student Council.

Miller attended Hollowell Brethren in Christ Church in Waynesboro. He played on the church basketball team and was active in the church youth group and the puppet team.

Rachel Oliver, 16, belongs to the same church and was Miller's friend.

"John was one of a kind. He knew what he believed in and stood for it," she said. "He was always the one to go the furthest the quickest. He used the talents that God gave him," she said. "He was just John."

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