Obituary of Thomas James Miller
Thomas James Miller passed away at his home on August 12, 2023, after a short fight with leukemia. He is greatly missed by his family and many friends.
Tom was born in Buffalo, NY, on February 4, 1938, the only child of Lillian Herringer Miller and Horace William Miller. Many of the friends he made in his youth at school and church remained connected through the decades and the miles. After two years at Buffalo State University of New York, he began work in the truck service department for a Buffalo grocery chain, and pursued his passion for drag racing at Niagara Raceway. In 1959 he met the love of his life, Barbara, at a roller skating rink. That night, Barbara told him that he talked too much, but his charms were irresistible, and his last name was easy to spell. They were married on May 7, 1960.
In the early 1960s, Tom worked as a service manager for a GMC truck dealer and served six years in the Army Reserves as a Staff Sergeant, and a daughter and son were born. He served as an elder at Amherst Presbyterian Church. In 1967, he accepted a job in the parts department of Hyster Company in Danville, Illinois, so the family of four began a westward migration.
Tom stayed with Hyster through two transfers: first to Portland, Oregon, where a second daughter was born, and then back to Danville, Illinois. The family wanted to return to Oregon, so Tom left Hyster and began a long career in sales management and general management for several companies, including Lile North American Van Lines, Chown/Pella Windows, American Brush, and Spacesaver Specialists. He retired on his 85th birthday in February of this year. Tom thrived in his role as a manager, finding deep satisfaction in making connections, serving customers, and helping other people be successful at their jobs. His business association leadership included Sales & Marketing Executives International, Toastmasters International, the Wilsonville Chamber of Commerce, and the International Sanitary Supply Association.
For Tom, contributing to the community, especially youth and families, was far more important than career achievements. He was a true servant leader. He believed that God put people and experiences in his path so he could serve others. He said that across the landscape of life, he was privileged to meet multiple people who had a significant influence in who he became. Tom loved making connections between associates from the community, and building teams and raising money for community service. He estimated that over the years, he helped raise and steward almost a million dollars for non-profit youth and family organizations.
As a volunteer for the West Linn School District for 37 years, Tom worked in long-range planning, budgeting, and boundary planning, where he helped buy and sell land for new schools in the growing city. For two years he produced and hosted a cable TV program about the school district. In 1992, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Award from the Oregon Association of School Executives.
Even in his hobbies, he expressed his passion through service. Tom’s volunteer work with Junior Achievement began in the 1960s and continued for two decades; he served as the JA Columbia Empire Chairman. A lifelong jazz fan, he served on the board of the Mt. Hood Festival of Jazz for many years. He has recently provided organizational support to The Family Room, a gathering place for biological parents and foster children. An avid reader, he also volunteered on the West Linn Library Board, and contributed reviews for Audiofile Magazine for a decade.
But the most important volunteer work for Tom in recent years was his fiscal leadership for the Youth Guidance Association and Sanctuary Inn. YGA provided a safe camp retreat and mentorship for young men after juvenile incarceration, and when the program was terminated by the State, Tom stewarded the remaining investments and property to the ownership of Sanctuary Inn, a peaceful recovery and restoration camp for missionaries and their families between years in the mission field. Tom connected many trusted associates from his other life experiences to provide the legal and financial means for Sanctuary Inn to become a reality.
As anyone who knew Tom can attest, he was also passionate about his favorite avocations. He remained a drag racing fan, traveling to NHRA events in the western US with his son. Tom was crazy about the Buffalo Bills. He was literally a card-carrying member of the fan club all his life. As a teenager, he sold programs at the stadium. In the 1990’s, he co-founded the Portland United Bills Backers, and organized sometimes hundreds of Bills fans to watch games in Portland pubs. He will be long remembered for announcing “LISTEN UP!” during games, bouncing his Bills umbrella shaped like a football helmet during the “SHOUT” celebration songs, and organizing raffles that created $25,770 in donations that went to children’s charities, both in Portland and his home town of Buffalo. In 2000, Tom was named the Top Bills Fan in Oregon by the Buffalo Bills organization.
A lifelong Presbyterian, Tom’s deep faith guided him through many life transitions. He was intentionally committed to service to God and the church. Ordained as an elder in his early adulthood, he served in a multitude of capacities, especially stewardship, to Presbyterian churches wherever the family lived. Most recently, Tom and Barbara have been enriched by their membership at Oak Hills Presbyterian Church in Milwaukie, Oregon, where his memorial service will be held.
Other than his faith, the most treasured aspect of Tom’s life was his family. Tom and Barbara celebrated their 63rd wedding anniversary this year. He dedicated time to each of his children and their interests during their growing-up years. Almost everyone who met Tom, from business associates to fellow board members to favorite waiters, heard something about the adventures of his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. He nurtured and encouraged them, offering advice when asked, and reminding them of silver linings when needed. He was proud of their achievements. He loved multi-generational family gatherings, and was honored with a special afternoon at home just one week before he passed away.
Tom was a remarkable man and will be missed by many, many people – not only family, but also members of his numerous communities. So many people have said, "He made a difference in my life." It is some consolation to envision him in heaven, consulting with former business mentors, talking with jazz greats, throwing balls for beloved dogs, re-living great games with former Buffalo Bills players, and joining a dozen of the saints’ fund-raising leadership committees. His family is heartbroken, so they find consolation in the knowledge that he’s restored and resting with the Lord. His faith was deep, his Christian leadership was tireless, and we are confident he was met with the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Tom is survived by his wife, Barbara Luella Schlothauer (West Linn, OR), and his children, Nancy Miller Campbell (Auburn, WA), Douglas Miller (Tigard, OR), and Jana Miller Trueb (West Linn, OR). His grandchildren are Rebecca, Caeli, Hana, Olivia, Christopher, Brendan, Tyler, and Mackenzie. Greatgrandchildren are Alexander, Rachel, Jaxson, Caleb, Carson, Cohen, and Agustin.
If you would like to send a memorial in his name, Tom would have been grateful for your contributions to Sanctuary Inn (www.sanctuaryinn.org), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that equips, refreshes, and restores missionaries at a peaceful forest camp near Mt. Hood.
A memorial service and celebration of life will be held at 2:00 on Saturday, October 7, 2023, at Oak Hills Presbyterian Church, 5101 SE Thiessen Rd, Milwaukie, OR 97267. All are welcome. The family requests that you wear red, white, or blue. Buffalo Bills attire is welcome. The service will also be livestreamed on www.oakhillspres.org (click on “videos”). You may view in real time, or view the video later.