Benjamin Junior Miller was born to Benjamin LeFevre & Lura Madrid (Potter) Miller September 22, 1923 in Ottawa, Kansas on a farm the Miller family had homesteaded in the late 1800’s. He was the youngest of 3 children, a brother, Herbert, 7 years older, and a sister, Ruby, 12 years older.
He grew up working on the farm. He attended the first 8 grades of school in a 1-room schoolhouse about a mile from the home, if he cut across the pastures to get there. He attended high school in Ottawa. After graduating from high school, he went to Kansas City where his brother financed his flight mechanic education at Fairfax Aviation School. After completing that training, he took a job assignment at the Coleman, TX airfield that was being used as a pilot training school.
It was in Coleman, TX that he met a young high school graduate named Winnie Alice Price. He had attended her graduation with a friend just for something to do, and they were later introduced by that same friend. Friendship grew into romance, and when Ben returned to Kansas City for another job, Winnie followed him.
Then Uncle Sam called his number and he opted to join the Navy, tested for flight engineer training, breezed through the test, and was assigned to flight shore patrol for his early training. On leave, between assignments, Ben returned to Kansas City and married Winnie. He spent the duration of his enlistment at the Naval Station in San Diego, CA, very blessed that he did not have sea duty or far off assignment during World War II.
Following the war, Ben returned to his hometown, but finding a job was difficult since mechanics were a dime a dozen and the pay was low. He made a change to retail sales, which paid a little more, and he went to work for Montgomery Ward. He moved to a management position with Townsend Department Store, working in Ottawa as well as western Kansas and central Missouri. The business decided to close, and through contacts, Ben took a management position with Lintz Department Store in Abilene, TX.
While Ben was finding his place in the business world, he was also growing his family. First was a daughter, then a son, and another daughter. All the children were healthy, until the polio epidemic in the early 50’s, when their oldest contracted the disease. When she survived the sickness with no obvious handicaps, Ben gave all the credit to God and His healing power. It was thought that his son may have had a “light case” of the disease because of some of the health issues he had as a small child, but the boy outgrew those problems and regained his health.
After several years of working for Lintz, the company went out of business, and Ben took a position as men’s department manager and buyer with Thornton’s Department Store. Thornton’s was often called a “city within itself,” much like the Walmart of today. The years passed and more responsibility was placed on Ben’s shoulders, and finally, once again, the business closed. By this time Ben was ready to retire.
With the bonus he received for working “to the bitter end,” Ben built a small shop in the backyard and began a woodworking hobby. He blessed many people with his works of art, handmade at “Gramps Woodworks.” When he wasn’t puttering around in his shop, he was helping at Wolf Nursery or Color Maker Nursery, as “the old guy who knows things,” giving out advice and answering questions that the youngsters couldn’t answer. His farm-boy knowledge came in real handy!
Ben was a member of First Church of the Nazarene in Abilene, Texas. He served over 20 years as church treasurer and served on the church board a little longer than that. He was an adult sponsor for the youth group when his kids were that age and did lots of handyman repairs around the church building when something needed fixing. Ben found an American Greetings software program for designing greeting cards, and he became the official card maker for his Sunday School class. The cards included lots of poetry and clip art.
He and 3 other men from church formed the “HiLo Gospel Quartet.” They traveled and entertained at church gatherings with quartet gospel music (all pantomimed/lip-synked) and lots of silliness. Winnie was part of the Abilene Star Chorus of the Sweet Adelines, and Ben would go along and support her during performances. Once he was tagged to play Dolly Parton for one of their performances, and he did an excellent job, hairy legs and all!
Because of all the things Ben did in his life, he could be called an artist, a poet, a teacher, a coach, a musician, an encourager, counselor, cheerleader and prayer warrior. He and Winnie, together, formed a dependable line of defense around all those they loved. Ben is survived by his 3 children, 5 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren and a host of other family and friends.
His homegoing service will be held 10:00 A.M Wednesday, November 20, 2019, at Elmwood Funeral Home Chapel, 5750 Hwy 277 South. A visitation will be 4:30 PM – 6:00 PM Tuesday, November 19, 2019 at Elmwood Funeral Home. Flowers may be sent to Elmwood Funeral Home or preferably, donations can be made in Ben’s honor to Abilene Star Chorus of Sweet Adelines International, 7150 Lantana, Abilene, TX 79606; First Church of the Nazarene, 2849 Beltway South, Abilene, TX 79606; or Hendrick Hospice Care, 1682 Hickory St, Abilene, TX 79601.
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