After 84 years and 22 days, my father, my dad, or as he preferred to be called – Ron – called it a day. He died while sitting in his wheelchair, as his medicine was being prepared.
Years ago, Ron told me, “Do whatever you want to do, and do your best at it until you don’t want to do it anymore. And then, do something else.”
And that’s just what Ron did, and this philosophy served him well right up to his dying moment. Although he had suffered a stroke in 1995, had limited use of one leg and arm and could only speak a few dozen words, he lived his last 17 years with vigor, strength and the determination to live life to the fullest. Here’s a look back at his life…
THE EARLY DAYS:
Ron, who was quite rambunctious and a tough guy even in his early days, grew up in Chicago with his folks Dave and Alice Miller and his sister Elaine.
Ron attended the University of Chicago and although he did not graduate, he was always a student and studied his entire life. After leaving school he joined the army and served for about a year.
While in the army, he honed his communication skills, and this was the beginning of his long-lasting love with radio, television and newspapers.
And then came the love of his life – my mother, Fern Taube Larmen Miller. The two of them were childhood sweethearts. They married, and before too long they had four boys, Scott, Michael, Jordan (deceased) and Grant.
A CAREER IS BORN:
While living in Huntington, West Virginia, Ron had his first radio show, worked at a newspaper, was on television and radio and his dreams were starting to come true.
His other dream was to live in Florida. He followed that dream, moved the family to Miami and started looking for work in his chosen field. In the meantime, he sold cemetery plots and was building a sales force. Then, his passion and determination paid off. He was offered a job at radio station, WEDR.
Within months, Ron started producing programs at WEDR and was the on-air personality for a show called The Gospel Train. In the late 50s and early 60s, he was also on Channel 7 as an anchor and reporter, and shared that space with Wayne Farris.
Around the same time, Ron bought the South Dade Shopping News, a monthly newspaper that was started by James Carey Martin in 1958. Ron grew the business and it became Miami’s Community Newspapers, with weekly newspapers all over town.
Ron was a busy guy. At one point, he was on the radio, on TV, had a group of newspapers and a wife and four wild children.
Soon though, the TV gig came to an end, the radio station was sold and the format changed, and there he was with a group of struggling weekly newspapers.
DOING THE RIGHT THING
Ron’s radio show on WEDR was centered on black preachers who discussed what was going on with their churches and what could be done to relieve the struggles that blacks were experiencing in the late 1950s and 1960s.
Ron loved helping those in need. He was a true liberal and stood up for people, especially blacks. I recall many occasions when people would make disparaging remarks about blacks, Ron would instantly respond, “My grandfather was black.” And I have to tell you, I was proud of him for standing up and speaking out, especially at a time when race riots were in full swing.
In the late 60s, he took me to a Freedom March in St. Augustine where I got a first-hand look at seeing the white beaches being integrated. That was the first time my eyes were opened to the struggle blacks were experiencing.
He was active in supporting the causes of the NAACP, the ACLU and other liberal organizations, and served at the president of the First Unitarian Church of Miami. Surely some of those ideals are imbedded in my brothers and me.
My affinity to helping people clearly came from my father. I am very grateful that he talked the talk, walked the walk and shared it with me and my brothers Grant and Scott.
FOR THE LOVE OF FAMILY:
In 1970, tragedy struck and my brother Jordan, died in a car crash. This was devastating for the entire family. Ron, though he rarely showed an emotional side, left the boys and perhaps my mother in an odd place of grief and sadness. He struggled to work through this tragedy. His carefree view of the world came crashing down.
My mother took the brunt of this family heartbreak and the stress on her was enormous. Soon thereafter she was diagnosed with primary biliary cirrhosis. She told me several times that she thought the stress of Jordan’s death caused her fatal illness.
When this happened, Ron essentially stopped working and he and my mother moved to North Carolina. He took her to numerous doctors across the country and overseas, trying traditional and non-traditional treatments in search of a cure. Eventually, they came back to Miami where they had spent so many years together.
Ron clearly loved my mother, spent all of his time with her, and for sure kept her alive for many more years.
Soon after my mother’s death in 1979, Ron left Miami and lived in Mexico and Spain for some years, and eventually settled in West Palm Beach. After he had a stroke in 1995, we brought him back to Miami so he could attend rehab at South Miami Hospital and be with family.
A FOND FAREWELL:
Ron lived the life he wanted, played by his rules, taught others to be compassionate, loved helping people and taught his children to tell their children: I love you.
Dad – thanks for the lessons, thanks for being there. And, just as you wrote in so many of your letters to me – Carpe Diem.
So you can look into his soul and get a sense of who Ron Miller really was, I’m sharing a piece he wrote and read at the funeral of his wife Fern, my mother, at the First Unitarian Church of Miami in August 1979.