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Craig Miller's helpfulness widened his circle of friends

June 21, 2008|By MARLO BARNHART

EDGEMONT, Md. -- The sound of an approaching freight train on the tracks behind Lois Miller's mountainside home sent two of her great-granddaughters scurrying to the door to watch it pass.

But for Lois, it was just one more reminder that her youngest son is gone. A CSX conductor, Craig Alan Miller died June 8 at the age of 36.

Lois and her late husband, Stanley Miller, had five sons -- the first three rather close together.

Dennis, Tom and Rick were followed 10 years later by their brother, Curt. Eight more years passed before Craig came along.

"It was like I had three different families," Lois said.

Curt Miller recalled being hoisted onto Tom's shoulders outside the hospital in Waynesboro, Pa., so he could see his mother at the window holding Craig.

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From the time Craig was 6 months old, Lois knew she had her work cut out for her with her youngest child.

"Craig was a very good boy, just rambunctious," Lois said. "He got into a lot of things."

One day, while in his walker, Craig tangled with an electrical cord and got shocked. But he never did it again, Lois said.

Growing up in an outdoorsy family, Craig did a lot of hunting and fishing. Curt said Craig always would share his bounty with the rest of his family and others.

Tom's fiancée, Becky Anderson, often went along on hunting trips. One trip a few years ago started a rather comical family tradition.

Becky said she got up and fixed food that frosty morning, got into her hunting clothes and set out, expecting Tom, Craig and a nephew, Eric, to be right behind her.

"It was so cold my nose froze shut," Becky said.

After a while, she went back to the house and found the three men inside, warm and toasty and watching an old movie.

After that, the first day of hunting season became known as Movie Day at the Miller household.

Craig was known for helping others, and that reputation was responsible for widening his circle of friends throughout his short life.

Once, Craig drove all the way to Alaska to help a friend move, Curt said.

"He thought about living there, but came home after a while," Curt said.

Lois said more than 400 people signed the book at Craig's funeral.

"The parking lot at Davis Funeral Home was full, and there were three rows of cars in the grass," she said. "They couldn't get all the people inside."

From childhood, Craig and his niece, "Sam" Valentine, shared a unique bond.

"I'm Tom's daughter, but am just a year older than Craig," she said. "We were always together ... more like brother and sister."

Although separated by 21 years, Tom said he always enjoyed Craig's company.

"We hunted a lot, cut firewood and looked for mushrooms together," Tom said.

Though childless, Craig enjoyed the company of the youngsters in his extended family.

"Uncle Craig took me mushroom hunting this year and showed me how to find them," said Samantha Valentine, 10.

Her sister, Savannah, 8, said she enjoyed playing "Memory" with him at the grandparents' home.

Moved by emotion, Tom quietly left his mother's kitchen for the solace and comfort of the outdoors.

"Craig was my brother, but you know he was almost like a son to me," Tom said.

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