Pinky Pie

This is for Charlie Miller & Me

Posted on: May 20, 2011

Charlie Miller

Among the things that I really liked about Dr. Charles Miller III – known to most of us as Charlie – was that he called me Susie Hessel, something I had not heard in decades.

Considering I met the late surgeon as an adult in La Crosse, I was way beyond Susie-cuteness. Truth be known, I was not Susie-cute past age 5 in other than my mother’s eyes, then known as Mommy.

The fact that I liked it when Charlie called me Susie tells you it was done with great warmth. He had that way with all sorts of folks. He cared about people.

Charlie, who served as president of the La Crosse School Board, called me one day to ask me to serve on the La Crosse Public Education Foundation. “Ask a busy person if you want to get something done,” he said.

He should know. He was a surgeon as well as a school board leader and he was very active in his church, Christ Episcopal Church, which had standing room only a half hour before the service began.

Charlie died of injuries he sustained in a fall while playing racquetball – at age 79. As was noted at his memorial service, he did nothing halfway.

“As kind as this man was — and he was very, very kind — he had a competitive streak in him that was just unreal,” said retired La Crosse Superintendent Richard Swantz and a former racquetball partner. “And if you played golf with Charlie, you’d think you were in the Masters event.” Swantz was quoted in a La Crosse Tribune  “Life Remembered” profile about Charlie.

All of his children spoke today at the celebration, including his son Charles IV, who said his father would have expected him to memorize his speech. He said he considered teaching everyone to tie a bowtie, but thought we would prefer getting home by dinner. At his memorial today, members of Miller’s family sported his trademark bowtie.

Charlie also always wore a smile and had a kind word for everyone.

More seriously, Charles IV read Ralph Waldo Emerson’s poem, “Success,” which applied to his father.

To laugh often and much;


To win the respect of intelligent people

and the affection of children;


To earn the appreciation of honest critics

and endure the betrayal of false friends;


To appreciate beauty,


To find the best in others,


To leave the world a bit better,

whether by a healthy child,


A garden patch

or a redeemed social condition;


To know even one life has breathed easier

because you have lived.


This is to have succeeded.

I am not one to quote scripture, but the service included at Charlie’s request this reference from Galatians 5:22-23 – “By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.”

That is precisely what Charlie believed and what will be most missed.

Charles IV suggested to those of us attending the service that we could honor his father by acts of kindness, large and small. When we do, just say silently or aloud, “This is for Charlie Miller.”

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1 Response to "This is for Charlie Miller & Me"

Thank you for the post, Sue! I too, first met Charlie when he recruited me to serve on the LPEF board with the exact same “pick-up line” that he used with you. I hold among my favorite memories of Charlie the bright, almost impish grin that lit up his face everytime I “accused” him of using that line. I learned a great deal from Charlie while serving with him on the LPEF Board and I treasure that time.

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