William R. Miller

[ Age 92 ] A recovering alcoholic, he used humor and compassion to help others battle addiction and rebuild their lives.

November 12, 2006|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,sun reporter

William Robert Miller, a recovering alcoholic whose compassion and ready wit were the tools he used to help others suffering from the disease reclaim their lives, died of heart failure Monday at The Pines Genesis in Easton. The former longtime Towson resident was 92.

Mr. Miller was born in Baltimore and raised on 33rd Street. He was a 1932 graduate of City College, where he had been an outstanding lacrosse player. He attended St. John's College in Annapolis, where he earned a bachelor's degree in 1936, and coached the junior varsity lacrosse team after being injured playing the sport.

In 1939, he married the former Shirley Morton, and the next year, the couple built a home on Worthington Road in Towson, where they lived until moving to Londonderry, an Easton retirement community, in 2001.

During World War II, Mr. Miller served as a Coast Guard lieutenant on North Atlantic weather patrols and aboard vessels in the lower Chesapeake Bay that rescued pilots who crashed during training.

After the war, Mr. Miller held several sales jobs and later went to work in 1950 for Diebold Inc., in the company's bank safe division. But with professional success came increased drinking, family members said.

"One time Bob disappeared, and after laying in the gutter in Southeast Baltimore for a couple of days, he couldn't find his car which he had forgotten that he had parked behind the old Central police station downtown. Another time, he parked our car on a neighbor's front porch," Mrs. Miller said yesterday.

"We had a neighbor who was an early member of Alcoholics Anonymous, and he talked to Bob and then took him to a meeting. He was 37 at the time," she said.

In dealing with his own struggle to stop drinking, Mr. Miller found his life's work, and at his death, he hadn't had a drink for 56 years.

Throughout nearly five decades until he had to stop driving in the late 1990s, Mr. Miller would go out at all hours to help an alcoholic in need, and he enjoyed attending various AA meetings.

"He had an outgoing personality and a great empathy for those with the problem," Mrs. Miller said. "Bob saved a lot of people."

In the early 1980s, Mr. Miller was executive director of Tuerk House, a Baltimore residential treatment facility for those suffering from alcoholism and drug addiction. He later was program director for the National Council on Alcoholism until retiring in the late 1990s, and he frequently traveled to Annapolis to testify in support of bills funding programs for addiction.

Mr. Miller, an avid fan of the old Colts who never missed a home game from the time the team arrived in Baltimore, was a past president of the team's Quarterback Club.

A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Wednesday at Londonderry, 700 Port St., Easton.

Also surviving are a daughter, Robin Miller Valliant of Oxford; two grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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