In Memoriam: David C. Miller, advocate and long-term board member

In Memoriam: David C. Miller (1947-2013)

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David C. Miller, long-time Board member and advocate for Wood Lane and founding president of the Ohio Association of County Boards of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (as the organization was then named), has died.  He was 66 years old.

A celebration of life is set for 2 p.m. Thursday in the Bowling Green Community Center, 1245 W. Newton Rd. Funeral arrangements are by the Deck-Hanneman Funeral Home. The family requests tributes to the Wood Lane Foundation or one of the organizations in which he was involved.

 

 

Miller an advocate for those in need

WRITTEN BY THE SENTINEL-TRIBUNE

For more than three decades, David C. Miller was the voice of the voiceless – in print and in person.

Miller, editor of the Sentinel-Tribune since 1980, died Saturday in York, Pa., after he became ill while on vacation.

Miller, 66, believed that good journalism did more than inform or entertain. If done properly, journalism could better the community it covered. The stories could point out wrongs or injustices and challenge a community to do better. They could identify holes in the safety nets, and encourage those able to patch them.

But Miller took this commitment far beyond the printed page. He was a long-time advocate and board member for those less fortunate – those with developmental disabilities, mental health issues, drug or alcohol addictions, and victims of domestic violence.

He made a difference – in print and in person.

“There is no question Dave was one of the most important community leaders Wood County has seen in the past half-century,” said State Senator Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green. “From agriculture, to libraries, to persons with developmental disabilities, and in so many other ways, Dave Miller was a difference maker in Wood County and Ohio.”

Bowling Green Mayor Dick Edwards said one of the last projects he worked on with Miller was the “Community Reads” program.

“He was a rare breed of journalist,” Edwards said. “He was always thinking of the common good of the larger community, especially any people who needed ‘a voice’ to tell their story and to express their needs.”

As editor of the Sentinel-Tribune, Miller mentored many young reporters as they started their careers. In his newsroom, many novice journalists learned about reporting, writing and responsibility to the community they covered.

Darla Warnock Brown was one of those young reporters, who came to the Sentinel-Tribune straight from college in 1997.

“I didn’t feel like another kid that was passing through. He invested in me and believed in me,” Brown said of Miller. She remembered Miller as a “newspaper man” and so much more.

“I didn’t know anything about being part of the community,” she said. “But he had a quiet way of teaching just by doing.”

Brown now carries on that commitment in her current job with the Canton Repository, where she is editor of the newspaper’s magazine.Tom Haswell, president of the Sentinel-Tribune company, praised Miller as a newspaper man and liaison with the community.

“Dave did a good job for the paper in a lot of ways,” he said. “There’s probably no one more dedicated.”

Miller taking notes during an interview at the Sentinel-Tribune. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune) Miller was relatively young when he took over as editor, but he had no problem earning the trust of the owners.

“We had enough confidence in him that we turned the newsroom pretty much over to him,” Haswell said.

Miller’s dedication went far beyond the newsroom. Once he adopted a cause, he was tireless.

“I can’t think of a single important decision that Wood Lane has made over the years that Dave hasn’t been involved in,” said Wood Lane Superintendent Melanie Stretchbery. “He was always thinking, what would be in the best interest of the people we serve? How will this make their lives better?” Those kinds of questions led him to push for community employment for Wood Lane consumers.

Miller wasn’t one of those quiet board members, who just nods his head in agreement. “He didn’t just serve as a board member. He learned it,” Stretchbery said.

His first experience with the developmental disabilities board was as a reporter covering its meetings in the 1970s.

“He decided he wanted to be a part of it,” Stretchbery said. And that meant complete commitment. “I can’t think of anyone who was more involved.”

As many know who have served on boards with Miller, he enjoyed active debates, had high expectations and held people accountable for doing their best. In exchange, they could count on his strong advocacy.

Michelle Clossick, director of the Cocoon Shelter for victims of domestic violence, discovered that when Miller joined her board in 2010.

“For anyone who sits in a meeting and worked on projects with Dave, he put himself fully in it,” she said.  He was “tenacious” when it came to speaking out for “the people who have the least voice.”  Like others, Clossick learned that Miller’s high expectations came with high rewards.  “Dave was probably somebody who pushed me the hardest, and was the most grateful and supportive,” she said.

Though serious about his advocacy, Miller was not above making a fool of himself for a good cause.

Elaine Paulette McEwen, former director of the Wood County District Public Library, noted that Miller often donned costumes for the library’s entry in the holiday parade. She recalled one year when he dyed his beard green, and another when he portrayed the Wizard of Oz. “He was willing to dress in a shower curtain, for God’s sake,” she said.

Others remember Miller promising to paddle down Poe Ditch if a United Way goal was reached – and following through in grand style down the smelly waterway.

“He was such a big personality. He was bigger than life,” McEwen said.  And he never left any question about his feelings, she added.  “He always said what he thought. You never had to wonder where you stood,” McEwen said. “He spoke his mind, and that didn’t make everybody happy.”

As a library board member, Miller encouraged others to aim high.

“His enthusiasm was contagious,” McEwen said. “He was a visionary. He could see things that most of us can’t see. Then he would sell it to the rest of us.”

“He is someone who made a huge difference.”

And those differences stretched beyond Bowling Green and Wood County. “He would fight for things he believed in” at the state and national levels, she said.

Gardner recalled one of those instances, when in the 1990s the future of library funding was being debated in Columbus. A phone call from Miller led to the creation of the Ohio Public Library Information Network, a new system connecting Ohio’s 250 library districts to each other by the Internet.

“Every library district, big or small, urban or rural, was treated the same. That equality of funding was very important to him,” Gardner said. “It might have been my amendment, but I always gave Dave the real credit. It has made a tremendous difference all across Ohio.”

Miller was also working to make a difference for people struggling with mental health issues, according to Tom Clemons, director of the Wood County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board.

He approached that board “like he approached everything in life,” Clemons said. “He always sought the truth.”  “He sought the best ways of understanding those who suffer and the best ways of helping them,” Clemons said. “He just had this big heart, and he just cared for people who suffered and were in need.”

Like others who worked with Miller, Clemons quickly learned of his high expectations.

“Accountability was huge to him,” Clemons said. “He expected in his relationships that people did their very best. If you did that, you earned his respect.”

“He expected excellence,” and for those who met those expectations, “he was the most loyal person I knew.”

The loss will be felt in so many organizations where Miller had dedicated his energy, he said.

“Who is going to step up and make sure people do the right thing” in Miller’s absence, Clemons asked.

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