Southern People

One of my heroes is no longer with us. Last week, Andrew S. Miller Sr. died after a long debilitating struggle with Alzheimer’s Disease. He had moved to Gwinnett about 20 years ago in retirement after being the former national commander for the United States for The Salvation Army. His wife, Joan, who led the Woman’s Auxiliary in the Untied States, lives in Lawrenceville.

It was a joy to be around Andy. He kept you alert with his fast-moving mind, yet he always did all this with such a happy outlook. One friend labeled him with “effervescence and optimism.” That was apt.

Oh, what a giant Andy Miller was, though he was short of stature at 5’7″. He had such energy, paired with a mind so sharp, yet had the understanding of what stimulated others. He could size up a situation in a snap, and used this ability to work with all his might for his Lord. Andy Miller marched to his drummer with dignity, grace and courtliness, sprinkled with a great deal of humor. He was a smiling, peppy Irishman, ready with a story that usually made a point, and left the person hearing the story feeling a little bit better.

He knew so many people, and brought joy to all who knew him. One story may not be far from the truth. When a guy at St. Peters Square in Rome asked who was the guy on the balcony in the white robe (obviously the Pope), the reply was that he didn’t know the guy in white, “But that was Andy Miller standing next to him.”

Andrew S. Miller Sr.

Andy’s actually had an audience with the Pope. From a biography written by his good friend, Henry Gariepy, we learned, indeed, that Roman Catholic Pope John Paul II and Andy met. Like others, Andy was instructed not to touch his Eminence. But when they met, the Pope came over and embraced Andy Miller! “I’ve heard about your work in New York,” he said.

Many others knew him. He formed a friendship with Robert Kennedy while jogging in New York. Later, Andy was an usher at Kennedy’s funeral. He knew presidents. And with them and everyone he met, he had a commitment to bear witness about Christ with at least one person every day. After witnessing with President Reagan, a friend, Jim Jewell, writes, “Miller was called back to the White House several weeks later. The President (Reagan) wanted to tell the Salvationist leader that he had taken the opportunity to witness to Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in a face-to-face meeting. In private, Gorbachev told Reagan that his grandmother had him baptized as a young boy and that she had told him about Jesus.”

In 1998, friends of Andy created a scholarship in his name at Asbury University in Kentucky, where Andy graduated. The $3,000 Miller Scholarship is intended to provide a leadership-training program and financial assistance for Salvationist youth of the Southern Territory to attend Asbury University. In January 2011, Asbury opened its $12 million Andrew S. Miller Center for Communication Arts building. It will be dedicated on March 4. He was a member of the Asbury College Board of Trustees for 30 years.

Andy Miller, his entire life, continued to work for his Lord, coaxing people to his church, calling on captains of industry to raise money, traveling across the country to help others, never meeting a stranger. And always, he took time to talk to people. Before the conversation ended, Andy was usually praying with and for them. Locally, he was a member of the Gwinnett Rotary Club.

Andrew S. Miller: 1923-2011: may you rest in peace.

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A Memorial Service will be held on Friday, Feb. 11, 2011 at 10 a.m. at The Salvation Army Atlanta Temple Corps, 2090 N. Druid Hills Road N.E., Atlanta.

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Elliott Brack

Elliott Brack

Elliott Brack is a native Georgian and veteran newspaperman. He published the weekly Wayne County Press for 12 years; was for 13 years the vice president and general manager of Gwinnett Daily News, and for 13 years was associate publisher of the Gwinnett section of The Atlanta Journal and Constitution. He now publishes, in retirement, Web sites on Gwinnett County, http://www.gwinnettforum.com, and Georgia news, http://www.georgiaclips.com.