Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Reflections about Charles (and Betty) Miller by David R. Kenney

Reflections About Charles (and Betty) Miller
by David R. Kenney
Charles Miller, Melissa Hannah (Betty's Mother), Steve Miller, Deanna Miller and Betty Miller

To Steve, Deanna, Brittany, Chelsea, Isaiah and the rest of the family, we extend our deepest heart-felt condolences to each of you.  Steve, we  loved your parents and were blessed that they included us in their lives.  I am honored to share some reflections about Charles.  It is hard to believe  that Betty has been gone for four years.  We still miss her!  Some have said that laughter through tears is one of the sweetest of emotions.  I hope these reflections provide some of that sweetness for you.

I would tease Betty Miller with a bunch of tall tales, and she could never tell if I was lying or telling her the truth.  She would ask Annette, but Annette would say “Can’t you tell?”  She would look at me with a slight grin, look of puzzlement on her face and ask “Now is that true?”  It made for some great conversations and laughter amongst us all!  Possibly the most fired-up I ever saw Betty is when her mother told her to stop picking on me or she would hurt my feelings!  I would tease Betty constantly, but I was always highly respectful and extra helpful to her mother.  So the idea that I could do anything so mischievous was not something Melissa would accept.  Betty knew better though, but it didn’t keep her out of trouble with her mother!  All chocolate cake will forever be measured by Betty Miller’s chocolate cake, and trust me—none will ever measure up.
Work Day At Streetsboro & Plymouth Duster

I can pretty much pinpoint the day I first met Charles Miller.  Annette and I graduated from Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, TN on May 4, 1991.  We were then married on May 7 in Centralia, IL.  We relocated to Streetsboro, OH arriving on May 8 which was a Wednesday.  The following Saturday, May 11, the congregation was having a work day.  Since the congregation had allowed us to move into the parsonage on Luke Drive and live in it until our apartment was ready at Kent State University, we wanted to come to the workday and get to know as many as we possibly could.  From this work day we met several people who have been great friends over the years, some are no longer with us except in our hearts.

I drove from TN to OH in a 1974 Plymouth Satellite, so when I noticed a Plymouth Duster in the church’s gravel parking lot I was curious about it.  Turns out that car was driven by Charles.  It was in the kind of condition that only a true MOPAR enthusiast would appreciate, if you know what I mean.  I struck up a conversation about needing some type of tool with Charles, and he said he had just the thing I needed in the trunk of that old Duster.  He opened it, and I wondered how he hadn’t lost some tools from that trunk, plywood aside.  He had the tool for the job!  I quickly learned that Charles was prepared to fix just about anything, complete any project, or build all kinds of neat inventions.  Remember the apple peeler run by a drill?  Or how about his irrigation vehicle made up from barrels filled and emptied by the motor of a snow blower, leaf blower or shop vac?  I thought that was so cool that I had to get a picture of it!

Charles Miller & his irrigation rig
Charles and Betty had a two-car garage.  If memory serves, Betty forced Charles to restrict his collection of items to where they could at least get one car in the garage.  Now what Betty called “a bunch of junk”, Charles viewed as past treasures that could be brought back to life.  It was always fun to listen to them discuss various items with the two viewpoints of “junk” and “treasure” at each end of the conversation.  Charles could fix just about anything, so he had just about anything in the garage.  As long as Betty could park the car in the garage, then there was peace and pieces.

Historian & Gravestone Photographer

Charles was a church historian, particularly local restoration church history, and we had several adventures combing through cemeteries, impromptu tours of church buildings or even book hunting.  It did not matter to either of us if we had been to a site before or not, we would go again to get the perfect picture!  One of my favorite pictures of Charles is his holding his hat over the camera in order to get the perfect picture of a tombstone.  He was dedicated! 
Charles getting the lighting just right

Now Charles was very polite and would never think of knocking on a church door and asking strangers for a tour.  But I would.  So we were able to tour church buildings in Mantua, Hiram and elsewhere.  We stopped one time at a church building we wanted to look inside in Mantua.  The front door was locked, so we went to the side door which was open into the fellowship area.  We knocked but no answer even though the door was open and the lights were on.  I told him I was going to go in and look around to see if anyone was here.  He said “I’ll wait in the car!”  When I started to go in, I thought about all the trouble I could get myself into and decided the car option was best!  I had visions of “member of the church of Christ arrested for trespassing in the Christian Church” headlines that restrained me.

Maps Before Interstates

One of my earliest memories of Charles relates as much to Steve.  Steve and I became quick friends while he was serving as the Intern Evangelist during the summer of 1991.  We were invited to come out to his parents’ house for dinner.  Steve told me to make sure I got directions from him, not his dad.  Curious, I laughingly asked why.  Steve laughed and said, “Oh, go ahead and ask him.  You will see."

Charles Miller was a collector!  He may have had the largest collection of old road maps I had ever seen!  So when I asked him for directions, he would give them to me with annotations about each turn and the history of the road system including former names of streets.  By the time he was finished, you had no idea what the directions were because he had mingled current road names with several prior names of the road in days past or roads this one replaced.  Steve would laugh and say—“I’ll give you directions later!” 

Realizing there was this running joke going about Charles’ maps, I brought it up at supper.  Out came the maps!  The vast majority, as I recall, were before Interstates!  The Internet would be proud!  Between Charles Miller and Roy Woofter, I heard the expressions "You do not mind a dirt road do you?" or "As the crow flies" more than I can count.  The word "gravel" came up more than once in our conversations!

Lover of Children
Charles and Betty loved children.  Anyone that could see and hear them speak of Steve would know that to be true.  To be in their house where they had one of those pictures that included a child’s portrait for every year in school was testimony enough, but it did not stop there.  They also had the capacity to love other children as if they were their own children.  Also, it did not matter how old you were either.  You could be a grown man or woman and they would love you as if you were part of their family.  They had huge hearts!

Betty, Charles and Baby James

Lover of the Lord

Charles did not mind standing for his convictions when it came to the Bible.  He was an excellent Bible student!  He did not like the liberalism which infested some of the modern translations, Christian writings and worship services; and he did not mind telling you about it; especially if you asked.  And if he was going to share his thoughts on the matter, then he would not be deterred. 

Now, I did not see this, but I know it to be true from Charles and Betty’s telling of it—one of not being deterred and the other from embarrassment.  Charles was giving someone in class some “feedback” about some comments they had made.  Betty, who did not like such open controversy, tried to get Charles to let the matter drop.  He persisted in the discussion to the point that she was kicking him in the shins and “shushing” him.  Did he stop?  No.  He just got up and moved across the aisle to make his point.

Charles loved the Lord!  He faithfully attended every service of the church that his health permitted.  If he felt someone was teaching error, he would do his best to correct it.  He would often do this privately, but he would not hesitate to do so openly if the situation called for it.  He was a hard worker all his life, but he never used that as an excuse to keep him from working for the Lord. If you loved the Lord and His Word, then you were someone Charles would quickly come to respect.

Charles and Betty left us a great legacy and Christian example to follow.  They provided the best comfort for others, hope—they were both faithful New Testament Christians.  “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus”  (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14, NKJV.)

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