Wednesday, June 29, 2011

54 Miller family members gather for reunion

It's been about as wet a June as old timers in Nebraska can remember.  And Miller family members got a good sampling of all that rain last weekend when we gathered in Chadron for a family reunion -- the first in 23 years.  But Mother Nature did give us a respite on Saturday (6/26/11) for the picnic at Wilson Park in Chadron; it warmed up nicely and we enjoyed sunshine for the entire afternoon.

And while the weather was a topic of considerable conversation, it was really memories of years-gone-by that dominated the conversations among cousins from Washington, Texas, California, South Dakota, Kentucky, Wyoming, Colorado, and Oklahoma.  Ironically, none of the participants was from Nebraska, which provided the nostalgic setting for the reunion.

Some of the Wyoming and South Dakota Millers were able to drive in and then return home that same day;  others arrived as early as Wednesday (6/23/11) to camp and enjoy the beautiful surroundings of Chadron State Park.  There were young and old (gulp) alike, and as nearly as we could determine, everyone had a great time getting reacquainted -- and, yes, even acquainted -- with Miller relatives.

The main event was the picnic at Wilson park, the same location that many of our parents and cousins gathered back in 1988.  Of all those aunts and uncles, only aunt Charlotte Miller of Metaline Falls, Washington remains, and she was unable to make the trip to Chadron for this reunion.  

All five children of Alex and Mildred Miller attended the 2011 Miller Reunion in Chadron.  They were among these 10 grandchildren of Pete and Dora Miller who came to the reunion from eight states.  Shown (L-to-R) are:  Linetha Miller Davis, Larry Miller, Judy Bird Callaway,  Pete Miller, Mike Miller, Charlene Miller, Bruce Miller, Jeanette Miller Gleed, Jerry Miller, 
and Connie Miller Merchen.

In all, some 54 descendants/family members of Pete and Dora Miller showed up for the gathering.  They included children or grandchildren of these Miller aunts/uncles:  Marie, Alex, Fannie, John, Bertha, Fred, and Albert.  Nearly all of the group showed up for a group photo, which you'll find in this 2011 Miller Reunion gallery.  

Judy Newman Miller of Metaline Falls put together color-coded name tags that helped folks identify each other, and Brad Miller of Wheat Ridge, Colorado, brought a box full of reunion T-shirts, complete with a QR code that some of the younger generation might be able to put to use (or even some of us geezers with smart phones.)  That QR code links to this web site. 

Country Kitchen of Chadron catered the event with a nice spread of roast beef and chicken, along with potato salad, cole slaw, and rolls.  Kids had fun playing soccer and badmitton, while the older folks visited.

There were lots of pictures taken, too, and we attempted to get shots of each family group, as well as a composite photograph of everyone.  We missed a few, but there were also lots of candid shots taken throughout the afternoon.  We'll be posting many of those images in our new 2011 Miller Reunion gallery, and we'd like to include any photos that you'd like to share.  Just drop us an E-mail.  

About a dozen Miller cousins gathered at Warring Memorial Church on Sunday morning for the 9:00 o'clock service.  That's the  same church that was so much a part of Grandma Dora Miller's life.  It's a beautiful little church, but struggling to keep alive and vibrant.  We Millers nearly outnumbered the regular congregation.  Especially delightful was the social gathering in the church basement after the service.  It was a time when older cousins could visit with local folks -- like Mary Daniels -- who well remember Pete and Dora Miller and their children.  The pastries the church ladies provided were very tasty, surpassed only by the wonderful conversations that took place between Miller family members and Whitney citizens.

A few cousins wandered around Whitney, trying to recapture memories of the village in happier times -- when the Millers lived here, and there was a vibrant sense of community.  There once was a high school, pharmacy, bank, lumberyard, movie theatre, filling stations, grocery store, newspaper, and a hotel. You'll find more about Whitney in a companion web site named Whitney Reflections.   A community band once provided entertainment for area residents, and Whitney Lake was a hub for recreational activities.  Now, almost all of that is gone, and the lingering water tower casts a long shadow over a community that is struggling to survive.  The school closed its doors last month after 125 years in Whitney, and although it's already been explored, we believe that the lonely bank vault on a downtown corner contains the secrets and memories that many of us want to recapture -- but never will.

The enormous rainfall in Nebraska has pushed the weeds and cactus out of control, so it was a bit tricky navigating around the Whitney Cemetery after we left the church.  But we found the stones for Dora and Pete Miller and other family members buried in the cemetery about a mile north of Whitney alongside Nebraska Highway Spur 23A.

Charlene Miller of Lusk, Wyoming, created a beautiful wreath that was placed on Pete and Dora Miller's tombstone by Paul Miller and Karen Galey Miller.

Most of the group journeyed westward to have lunch at Fort Robinson State Park, another locale that undoubtedly was frequented over the years by Pete and Dora and many of their 11 children.