This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, June 14, 1995

June 14, 1995 - Philip S. Miller dies

When I was a boy, my grandfather -- a white-haired gentleman who always wore a suit and tie, even on his days off (even when he mowed the lawn) -- would take me around to the various civic offices of Findlay, Ohio, and introduce me to folks.

They always knew him. They had always worked together on one thing or another.

Granddad encouraged me to ask them questions. I enjoyed that part of it. If I didn't get all the answers the questions deserved, he took me to the library.

At the time, I thought all this stuff was alternately boring and strangely interesting. (And I was always proud to go anywhere with my Granddad).

In retrospect, I think he was trying to lay the groundwork for a life of public service -- a cross-generational lesson.

I've been thinking about these and other things since the death of Philip S. Miller last week. As I've looked over the historical record (much of it at the Douglas Public Library District) and as I've listened to his friends talk about him, I find myself thinking that I haven't met even a handful of men like Phil Miller.

The litany of one man's life is a solemn thing. Try writing your own obituary to see just how rapidly your life can be summed, and how rare it is to do great good.

It's a sobering exercise. I've never known anyone else who brought electric lights or a sewer system to a town. I've never known any other survivors of international depressions who became founders and executive directors of remarkably vital small town banks -- and stayed late to sweep the floors.

Phil Miller was INVOLVED. He was active in the Lions, the Masons, the fire department. He served on the Town Council. And as I'm sure everyone in Castle Rock knows, he donated stupendous sums of money (over $800,000) to the public libraries of Douglas County.

It happens that I had a chance to meet Mr. Miller. He was 94, and living in a nursing home.

He treated me with courtly grace, a selfless majesty. He spoke with great feeling and intelligence about the value of the public library to the community of 30 years ago.

I admired him. These days, I admire him even more.

A persistent human myth is the idea that "giants once walked among us." In every way that matters, Philip Simon Miller was just such a giant.

He worked WITH people to do good.

Behind him I can detect not a trace of acrimony or pettiness, can witness neither vainglory nor boasting. Rather, he left a legacy of hard work, selfless vision, and an abiding testimony from his many friends.

Too often in our times, our public debate is too harsh, too quick to criticize, too slow to offer the simple solution of willing human labor.

I know that for me and for others, Phil Miller is both cultural antidote and shining example.

If you're interested in discovering more about the life of a man whose life spanned one century and whose works will resound into another, you might want to visit the Philip S. Miller Library in Castle Rock, Colorado.

He would have been pleased to meet you there.

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