A life remembered

Miller was a funny and quirky man

Miller was a funny and quirky man

December 30, 2007|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail runs "A Life Remembered." Each story in this continuing series takes a look back - through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others - at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Robert Hart Miller, who died Dec. 20 at the age of 80. His obituary appeared in the Dec. 27 edition of The Herald-Mail.

When Linda Miller's husband died Dec. 20, she knew she wouldn't have to worry about making plans.

Her husband had done that for her.

In advance of his death, Robert H. Miller had given his wife a list of people to call for arrangements. He also had written his own obituary.

While some of the preparation notes he left were outdated - he said death certificates would cost $1 apiece instead of the current price of $20 - the effort to have things in order was one of his most recognizable traits, Linda said.


"He was always very well-prepared," Linda said. "If there was a document, he had it filed."

Robert worked for 28 years as a classification manager at the Maryland Correctional Institution south of Hagerstown.

For some of that time, he lived with his wife and their two children on the prison grounds in one of four stone houses that were reserved for prison workers and their families.

"People used to ask us if we were afraid," Linda said. "I told them, 'No one's going to break into a prison, and if they break out, I imagine they'll want to get farther than our house.'"

Before working at the prison, Robert, along with his father, ran the Fred B. Miller Truss Co. in Hagerstown. The company built trusses for people at a time before hernia surgeries were common.

Linda said her husband kept a skeleton of a pelvis made of human bones in the house after he left the company.

"He used to decorate it for holidays and things," she said.

It was one of the many fun things he did that his daughter, Amanda, said made Robert "the cool dad."

As a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians, Robert Miller taught Amanda how to line her mouth with lighter fluid and blow on a flaming torch, a procedure that would shoot fire across the room.

A chemistry major, he taught his son, Grant Miller, how to make gunpowder.

"He was a master of useless tricks," Linda said.

When he was young, Robert broke his right arm twice and learned how to write left-handed. But having retained the ability to write with his right hand, he also learned how to write with both hands simultaneously.

"He could write backwards," Grant said. "He could start in the center of a page and write out toward the edges with both hands. I don't know how he did it."

Robert also was a ventriloquist, painter and speed reader.

Grant said that one night, his mother and sister rented the movie "Cujo" after having recently read the book. Robert wanted to watch the movie, but hadn't read the book yet. So he read the 320-page Stephen King novel in a matter of hours.

"It was amazing," Grant said. "He made pertinent comments during the movie and everything."

Grant and Amanda said their father was a funny, quirky man whose love for his children never was in doubt.

Amanda recalled a particularly cold year when the pumpkins in the garden hadn't ripened by Halloween. Their father took care of the problem by spray painting the pumpkins orange.

Another time, he lugged her cello to the car after a concert through a bitter wind so cold that their vehicle wouldn't start. Amanda laughed when she thought about her 120-pound father grasping the cello while being battered by the wind.

"It was a lot of effort for him," Amanda said. "And it was a sight. But that was my dad. Funny, but extremely caring and loving."

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