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Profiles in Badassery: William Miller

It’s family.

I have a confession to make.

My grandfather attended Indiana University.

Yes, my father was a Boilermaker, graduating from pharmacy school in 1975. I was a Boilermaker, graduating from the School of Liberal Arts in 2002. My son is well on his way to enrolling in the fall of 2031 as the next generation.

My grandfather, however? He was a Hoosier. After graduating from Muncie Central High School he attended IU with an idea to become a history professor. Then little things like “military service in the Navy during the Korean War” and “Marrying my grandmother and having my dad at age 20” got in the way. He was never a huge sports fan, but he would talk about it casually. His relationship with my grandmother was... strained for much of their marriage, but they managed. He would work to take care of my dad and my aunt and so would my grandmother. That was that. My dad often said he really didn’t get to know his dad until he was in college and my grandparents separated, but they became very close since then.

By 1979 I was the first grandson and he had remarried. A lot of the details are sketchy to me because it happened before I was born and it was never really talked about, but I do know that he was proud of his Purdue grad son and, in time, grandson. While I was closer with my mom’s dad, to the point I named my son after him, I always looked up to my other grandfather, even if he was a little distant at times. I also like how I feel I corrected a family wrong that he started, but he appreciated how I corrected it.

You see, his name was William Robert Miller. His father was William Ora MIller. His father’s father was William Harry Miller, and his father’s father’s father was William AJ Miller (who may have fought for the South the Civil War, so not good). You get the idea. We think that he was the sixth William Miller in a row, but all with different middle names.

So when my dad was born my grandmother, headstrong as ever, named him Gregory Alan.

Yeah, Great Grandma Miller was kinda pissed about that.

Things smoothed over by 1979, as a new tradition was started. I was named Travis Alan. In 2013 my own son was born. I longed to honor my other grandfather, who passed away in 1991, so the first name was easy: I named him Dillon, my mother’s maiden name since my mom was an only child and I was the only grandson of his. What to do with the middle name, however? Well, that was easy too.

Dillon Alan Miller.

My grandfather loved history. He visited many Civil War and Revolutionary War battlefields. He held a ton of our family genealogy records until I was able to digitize some of them a few years ago. Family history was important to him, so even though he did not have the Alan tradition, he started it. I was very happy to carry it on.

Around 6pm tonight I received word he had passed away in South Carolina. I last got to see him at Christmas 2018, when he came up to visit. Even though he wasn’t getting around well he insisted on driving up from South Carolina each Christmas to visit. In May 2013 he came up for my son’s dedication and I had the honor of handing him his month old great grandson. I asked him if he ever thought he would get to hold a great grandson and he said no, but it was a great honor all the same. He wrecked his car last year on the drive back, but made it through. He was done driving and had to move into an assisted living facility, but even at age 88, he was sharp. Just a little slower.

Time is undefeated, however. My last words to him the last time I saw him were to take care of himself, and that we loved him. When he would speak with my dad he would always ask about his great grandson, and just a few weeks ago he was incredibly proud to tell his friends that his great grandson was student of the month in first grade.

So why am I writing this here? For catharsis, mostly. I have been doing this for more than 10 years, but I consider you readers family. Even though he went to IU and admired Bobby Knight, my grandfather was one of those readers. Since 2009, when his second wife passed away, he has been the quiet widower with his friends, but he was proud to share that his grandson “wrote on the internet” to a bunch of strangers. He was proud of that, especially since his mother was quite the writer herself. I still have some of her poetry and I like to think I can turn a phrase or two because of her.

I will be stepping away for a few days. I will be heading to South Carolina to help my dad with arrangements and such. I am worried about my dad, who is the family rock, but just lost his dad. I am worried about my son, who kind of understands what is going on but not really. I just wanted to share here because he was one of the many, many of you that enjoyed reading my words on a glowing screen. He is one that encouraged me to love history, which is probably why I love thumbing through media guides for random stats like, “Tommy Luce is the first Purdue player to go 4-0 in Bloomington”. He also is one of the people that encouraged me to start this.

I was damn lucky to make it to 40 and still have around.

I was damn lucky to have him at all.