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To those of us in the Pantagraph sports department, D. Paul Miller was the friendly voice on the phone or smiling face in the lobby.

He was a Senior Olympics winner hundreds of times in state and national competitions. He would call or stop by to share news of his most recent medals haul. Every time was a joy.

To Norm Eash, Miller was a workout companion at Shirk Center when the rest of us were sleeping. Illinois Wesleyan's football coach would meet up with Miller by 5 a.m. and they would talk football, deer stands and life in general. Their bond was tight.

To Ron Rose, Miller was the opposition in a friendly checkers rivalry. Rose lost more than he won against Miller, who delighted in reminding the IWU basketball coach of that.

To Stew Salowitz, Miller was a warm and welcoming adviser to an incoming IWU freshman. Among the classes he gently steered Salowitz toward was anthropology, which Miller taught in addition to sociology.

"We went to Dickson Mounds," recalled Salowitz, a 1976 IWU grad in his 31st year as the school's director of communications. "It's funny what you remember."

There is so much to remember. Miller was so many things to so many people. It wasn't because he was 101 when he died a week ago, but rather how he lived those 101 years.

"He was a very interesting and diverse person," Eash said. "I learned a lot of lessons in life from him. I was impressed with his longevity and how he was very active.

"I was actually kind of jealous of him because he was so full of life and living life to the fullest in his 90s and beyond. That's the biggest thing about D. Paul. He lived life to the fullest every day."

Miller was still hunting deer into his 90s. He would show up at one of those early morning training sessions and say, "Norm, I got me a deer. Would you like some venison?"

Soon, Eash would have venison.

If Miller missed more than a morning or two, Eash would worry and check on him. When Eash underwent hip replacement surgeries, Miller checked on him.

Two or three years ago, Miller was ill and told Eash, "It's my time Norm."

"I said, 'No, it's not your time. We need to get you to 100,'" Eash said.

Miller rebounded. He did that a lot. And on Oct. 13 this year, when IWU faced Elmhurst in a football game at Tucci Stadium, Eash heard a familiar voice say, "Coach Eash" as he walked toward the field.

Miller was nearby with his daughter.

"I went over and talked to him," Eash said. "That's the last time I talked to him. He was a great person. He always had a kind word to say about everything and everybody. And he had some humor to him."

We learned that here. The last time he visited The Pantagraph, it was to report winning four gold medals in the 100-and-over division of the 2017 National Senior Olympics. One came in the 50-yard dash.

"They call it a dash, but it wasn't very dashy," Miller quipped.

Rose often saw that side. This past spring, after the two had not played checkers in a month or two, Rose showed up to play and Miller said, "I thought maybe you'd given up."

"I've never heard a better checker trash talker than Dr. Miller," Rose said, laughing. "He was my buddy. I'm really going to miss him. He lived an amazing life."

Salowitz called it "fascinating." Both are correct.

Miller was born Aug. 30, 1917, on a farm in Kansas. In his 2011 book, "From The Dust Bowl to The Corn Fields," he described a childhood in which he would rise by 5 a.m. daily to work on the farm. His family adhered to strict Conservative Mennonite beliefs.

In World War II, he was among 12,000-plus draft-eligible men from peace churches given conscientious objector status. He was assigned to a Civilian Public Service camp, where he served without wages and performed a wide range of duties.

Miller later obtained his teaching degree and taught at Nebraska, Wayne State and Mankato State before landing at IWU in 1960 as head of the sociology department.

Miller and his wife, Anne, became committed to physical fitness. Anne Miller, who died in 2010, was confined to a walker and wheelchair the final three years of her life. Her husband became her caregiver.

All the while, Miller was a regular at IWU athletic events, including softball games "in the heat of the day," said Salowitz, who added, "He got a lot out of his 101 years. We should all be so lucky."

There was not much luck involved in the checkers games. Miller was a strategist and shared some tips with Rose ... just not enough for the IWU coach to beat him.

Titan athletic director Mike Wagner occasionally tagged along as "the judge" during the games.

"He was sharp as can be," Wagner said. "His thought process as far as what moves to make or not make was pretty impressive.

"It's hard not to draw inspiration from somebody doing what he was doing and how he lived his life and who at 100 was still competing at something he loved."

"It's a big loss for the Titan community," Rose said.

Ours too.

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Contact Randy Kindred at (309) 820-3402. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_kindred


Sports Editor

Sports editor for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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