Carnation resident Howard Miller honored for his storied Valley history

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CARNATION - When one thinks of stellar Carnation residents, Howard Miller undoubtedly comes to mind. The longtime Lower Valley businessman has many accolades to his name: there's a field named after him, he's connected with many organizations, and most recently, the Carnation City Council declared his 88th birthday on Feb. 29 "Howard Miller Day."

Standing at 5 feet, 3 inches in his prime, his stature might have been considered small but no one can deny the height of his character.

"Howard Miller's life is a pattern of a life well lived. I wish I knew him," wrote an author on an online discussion board. "When I grow up, I want to be just like Howard Miller."

The following are 22 anecdotes in honor of the 22 actual birthdays that Miller has celebrated because he was a leap-year baby.

Tumble beginnings

On Feb. 29, 1916, Miller's mother and father got into a car accident. "The car rolled and I rolled out of my mother," he said. His mother was only 6 months along in the pregnancy, but luckily there was a midwife nearby who kept the young Miller alive.

What a Hoot!

Silent picture star Hoot Gibson was one of Miller's heroes of the day. At the end of each show, Miller recalled that Hoot would kiss his horse's nose.

Ingenious invention

Miller's father wanted his children to play only with toys that were handmade. So, he constructed a paddleboat for his son out of a rubber band and a shingle. Miller remembered playing with this toy for hours in the rain-drenched streets of Seattle's Capital Hill neighborhood. "I was the envy of the neighborhood," he recalled.

Put up your dukes

Being the smallest and weakest kid at school, Miller would often have to defend his honor. His mom would complain that she couldn't get the blood stains off his white shirts.

Early aspirations

Like many little boys, Miller wanted to be a fireman when he grew up. Then, he wanted to be a dentist. He eventually became a store owner in Carnation.

The H.A.M. butt of jokes

The initials of Howard A. Miller gave the local kids plenty of fodder to make up nicknames for him.

Best buddies

Between ages 7 and 17, Miller's best friend was Jerry Patterson, who also lived on Capital Hill. "We ran away from more situations than I care to remember," Miller quipped. According to Miller, Patterson was the mastermind of the incidents and Miller was just an onlooker.

Small works of art

Stamp collecting has been one of Miller's passions since he was 12 years old. Today he has thousands of stamps, which he has shared with hundreds of students at Carnation, Multi-Age, Stillwater and Cherry Valley elementary schools.

Between the lines

Since Miller was often sick as a child, his father would bring him dime novels to read. His favorite titles were written by Horatio Alger Jr. Alger's stories were usually about a young boy's rags-to-riches claim to the American dream.

Every neighborhood has a story

Just two blocks from the Miller home on Capital Hill there was a family whose son was on death row for allegedly robbing and shooting a man. One week before the scheduled hanging, the real murderer was found and the previously convicted man was set free. This event convinced Miller to stay away from trouble and jail.

How much wood could Howard chuck?

Miller's daily duties included cutting and stacking wood so that his mother could build a fire to cook their dinner.

Will work for food

Miller's first job was as a handyman in an overall factory. He got paid 8 1/3 cents an hour, which equaled to 25 cents a day. With pay money in hand, he would go to a local diner and buy a plate that had a piece of meat; a gob of spuds; beans, peas or corn; a large salad and apple pie with cheese.

Big man on campus

After graduating from Garfield High School in Seattle, Miller attended the University of Washington for two years. His college career ended when tuition increased from $25 to $35. Miller was active with the rowing team, ROTC and a fraternity.

I left my heart in Carnation

Before he opened Miller's Dry Goods in 1938, Miller visited the small town and noticed that the people were friendly. He vowed that if he ever opened a store, it would be in that very place. "This town never ceases to impress me with the good fellowship," he said.

Hot wheels

The first car that Miller drove was an old and battered Ford that had no brakes or middle gear. He later bought a Hudson 112 for $50. It was his beloved car that he used to drive between his home in Kirkland and his new store in Carnation.

Please pass my heart

Miller met his bride-to-be during a Sunday dinner at his family's home. "I fell in love with her between the soup and the salad," Miller recalled. "It's true." On their first date he and Marion held hands and talked about the future. After going steady for three months he called her and said he wanted to make their relationship permanent. The couple married and had two children, Marilyn and Marty.

I told you so

His wife Marion would often feed stray cats in her kitchen and then shoo them away before Miller came home. One day, Miller hid some petrified turtle dung under a piece of paper with the words, "I told you this would happen." It was his cheeky way of making her think it was cat poop.

The write stuff

For 40 years - with some time off in between - Miller wrote a sports column for the Snoqualmie Valley Record. Miller was able to work with renowned author Charlotte Paul Groshell, who chronicled her time with the newspaper in her book "Minding Our Own Business."

Sing me a song

Just mentioning the song "Always" by Irving Berlin nearly brought a tear to Miller's eyes as he remembered his 50-year love affair with his wife Marion. "She was a wonderful girl to put up with me and my idiosyncrasies," he said.

Keep your eyes on the vineyards

Miller has taken several trips abroad including stays in Russia, Austria, England and Germany. On a boat ride along the Rhine River with his daughter Marilyn, she suddenly said, "Dad, look at the vineyards!" Later, another man asked Miller if he saw the boat of naked women going by, but his daughter's diversion tactics kept him from the fleshy scene.

Beating the odds

Throughout Miller's life he has faced many physical ailments including two heart attacks, pneumonia and breathing difficulties. "I lived a very scared life," Miller said. "Doctors kept saying that I wouldn't live past [the age of] 42. They're are all dead and I'm still alive."

Fountain of youth

And finally, through the 88 years of Miller's life, he has seen many changes and inventions. But the one thing that he would like to capture is youth. "I wish I could roll back the years because I'm having so much fun," Miller said.

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