Inside the Capitol

Thursday, October 13, 2005

10-21 A Tribute To Dad

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE � Yesterday my father would have turned 100. He died 12 years ago and was ready to move into the afterlife in which he so strongly believed.
J. Cloyd Miller was a living testimonial to New Mexico�s climate and its curative effects on tuberculosis. In 1907, his father moved the family from Illinois because of his youngest son�s health problems.
It worked. Dad�s lungs cleared to the point he was an athlete at Las Cruces High School and was the starting center in a state championship basketball game, losing to Albuquerque High by one point in overtime.
But 87 years after coming to New Mexico�s dry climate, those lungs filled with fluid for the final time. It had become a problem every January the previous four years.
The Miller family didn�t move straight to Las Cruces. Besides being a medical doctor, C.A. Miller also was a farmer. He decided to homestead land near Tularosa between White Sands and the Malpais. Grandmother taught school in town and grandfather practiced medicine just enough to barter for the farm equipment and labor he needed to try damming an arroyo for use as a water source.
But, of course, the dam never held the mighty force generated by New Mexico cloudbursts and grandfather couldn�t prove up the homestead. He next tried the Malaga Salt Flats south of Loving with no better luck.
Finally in 1920, with his two sons in high school, he moved the family to Las Cruces, opened a full-time doctor�s office, bought some Rio Grande bottomland near Mesquite and hired someone to do his farming. On weekends, he�d go out and get his ands dirty.
Dad followed in his mother�s footsteps as a teacher. After graduating from New Mexico A&M, he taught in Gallup and Las Cruces before becoming a high school principal in Lordsburg and Carlsbad and then serving as superintendent of the Lordsburg and Deming school districts. From 1952 to 1962, he was president of New Mexico Western College in Silver City.
Most sons admire their fathers, but I always felt I had extra reason for pride in mine. Dad led a totally moral life. He claimed that no tobacco or alcohol ever touched his lips. I never heard a swear word from him. He scolded me for using words like �gosh� and �golly.� Unfortunately, none of those good examples were passed on to me.
The only doubt I ever had about Dad was that he was too good. I thought he would lose out for always turning the other cheek. But his good deeds somehow were rewarded just as he said they would be.
In 1952, when he was president of the National Education Association, Dad and a few other NEA leaders decided the organization needed a summer travel service for its members. But they couldn�t convince the governing body to take the risk.
So Dad and two others pooled their life savings, bought a travel agency in Alexandria, Va., and set up tours for teachers. After a year, business was so good that NEA gladly bought the operation at no profit to my father or friends.
I told him he was a softie because he didn�t charge for his risk. But when he retired 10 years later, he was in immediate demand as a travel consultant due to his successful experience setting up a tour company.
For the next 20 years, my parents traveled the world courtesy of the airlines for which Dad consulted. His upbeat personality and two filing cabinets full of jokes made him a big hit on the speaking circuit. A good command of Spanish also made him popular throughout Central and South America.
His last eight years of life were not quality time. Dad�s quick wit slowly dimmed to a faint glow. The past four years, he and my mother were residents of an Albuquerque nursing home.
But his basic goodness never faded. When I asked how he was doing, he would motion to the nursing home employees and said, �I�m doing great because these people treat me so much better than I have any right to expect.�
FRI, 10-21-05

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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