Robert P. Miller, 83, salesman, teacher and Rodgers Forge community activist

August 18, 1998|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

Robert Price Miller used to sing Pavarotti-like arias as he walked his dogs near Dumbarton Middle School and joked in the basement of his Rodgers Forge home while he painted in the style of Picasso.

Mr. Miller, 83, who lived in the community for more than 40 years, was one of its best-known and respected residents. He died Wednesday of leukemia at his home. His beloved opera music filled his home at his death.

Considered by many to be the stalwart of the Baltimore County neighborhood, Mr. Miller's interests went beyond his music and art: He also was a teacher, a community activist, and a salesman.

But engaging in conversation was perhaps how he is best known. There was little that Mr. Miller couldn't and wouldn't carry on a prolonged conversation about, friends and family recalled.

Few people who knew him weren't enamored by his exuberance and boyish personality.

"He knew a little of everything," said his wife, the former Virginia M. Keenan, whom he married in 1938. "Everybody always seemed to like talking to him."

Mr. Miller was known to many Rodgers Forge residents for his diligence in trying to maintain the neighborhood's covenant, such as barring too-high fences, and being one of the regulars who gathered at Dumbarton Middle School to walk their dogs.

Mr. Miller's three dogs -- two cairn terriers and a mixed breed -- were nearly as rambunctious as he was.

"I remember that he used to get all tangled up with his dogs," said Leona Ingraham, a longtime friend and neighbor. "But he was always glad to see you. He loved to discuss the issues. He'd pound his fist on the table sometimes during the discussions."

His wife said Mr. Miller enjoyed being outside. "If something was wrong, he'd report it to the county. And at Dumbarton, he made sure everybody cleaned up after their dog. He wasn't worried about walking up to someone and saying, 'Don't you have a bag? Well, here's one.' "

A native of the Govans community of Northeast Baltimore, Mr. Miller graduated from the Polytechnic Institute in 1933 and served in the Navy from 1942 to 1946.

He returned to the Baltimore area after his discharge and worked in the insurance business for most of his life, working in sales for Lincoln Insurance Co. from 1946 to 1954 and for Tongue-Brooks insurance group from 1954 to 1960. He retired from Manufacturer's Life of Canada in 1970 as a brokerage manager.

He was an active member of the Baltimore Life Underwriter's Association and taught an insurance underwriting class at the Johns Hopkins University in the 1960s.

Music -- both classical and opera -- were his passions and he had a large collection of each. He never had singing lessons, but always sang around the house and was in a barbershop trio with his brothers while growing up.

In his retirement, he spent more time painting and taking photographs. Some of his work was included in a recent exhibit at Towson Unitarian Universalist Church.

"He was always one of the nice people of the community," said Pat Wynne, who saw him frequently while walking her dog. "A real nice man."

Services were private.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by a daughter, Karen Anne Divers of Fairfax Station, Va.; a son, Harwood R. Miller of Houston; and three grandchildren.

Donations may be made to Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care at Greater Baltimore Medical Center, 6701 N. Charles St., Baltimore 21204.

Pub Date: 8/18/98

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