William Miller

Age 78: Decorated Korean War veteran was a longtime teacher who was known for his patience and cool demeanor.

Mr. Miller, who sometimes wore his old Army uniform to school, was called "The Colonel" by students.

June 19, 2008|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,Sun Reporter

William M. Miller Sr., a retired Gilman teacher and decorated Korean War veteran whose career at the North Baltimore private school spanned nearly four decades, died of cancer June 12 at Stella Maris Hospice in Timonium. The Parkville resident was 78.

William Middendorf Miller was born in Baltimore. After his parents divorced and the death of his mother, he was raised by an aunt who lived in the 1000 block of St. Paul St.

He was a 1947 graduate of Boys' Latin School, where he had played varsity football, basketball and lacrosse.

After graduating from the Johns Hopkins University, where he had earned a bachelor's degree and had been in the ROTC in 1951, he accepted a commission in the Army.

Mr. Miller saw heavy combat while serving in Korea with an infantry unit from 1952 to 1953.

"He was an amazing individual and the most unlikely of soldiers. He was far from being the gung-ho type and didn't talk much about what he had been through in Korea," said his brother, Norvell E. Miller III, retired director of book production at Waverly Press Inc. and Williams & Wilkins.

Mr. Miller was seriously wounded in 1952 while leading a 14-man patrol during a raid on Hill 200 on the T-Bone , a hill that was held by a squad of enemy Chinese soldiers.

"We were to move up as far as we could, shoot a flare to call off the MG fire, then move up in the trenches, move through and back, hoping to get a prisoner (which was our mission) and then back down the hill," Mr. Miller wrote in an account he sent to his Baltimore pastor.

"However, our flares wouldn't explode, and Chinese grenades began to fall on us. One man was wounded pretty seriously; and not being sure how many others were wounded, I pulled back to the bottom of the hill. I called in, reported and got word to go back up," he wrote.

At the end of the raid, seven out of 16 men were seriously wounded, with one killed.

After being treated and recovering from a head wound and shrapnel in a leg, Mr. Miller returned to T-Bone.

"As for myself," he wrote, "I think I'm pretty lucky."

"My brother was decorated with the Silver Star, Bronze Star and a Purple Heart," Norvell Miller said.

After being discharged with the rank of first lieutenant, Mr. Miller entered the University of Virginia, where he earned a master's degree in English in 1955.

He began teaching fourth grade at Gilman in 1955 and later transferred to the middle school, where he taught sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade language arts for many years.

Mr. Miller was also the school's director of admissions, and in 1987 was awarded the Edward Russell Chair for Excellence in Teaching.

Mr. Miller, who sometimes wore his old Army uniform to school, was called "The Colonel" - or more often, "Mr. Miller," or "Sir" - by students.

He was also known for his patience, cool demeanor, and annual Veterans Day speeches.

"Bill was a great guy, an excellent teacher and the consummate professional. He was a gentleman and a real example for the kids," said retired longtime headmaster Redmond C.S. Finney.

Norvell Miller recalled that his brother, who retired in 1992, had the ability to "get along with everyone."

Former students, "some now in middle age," Mr. Miller said, "were always coming up and speaking to him when they saw him."

Mr. Miller was an avid coin and stamp collector and enjoyed spending summers at a family home in Blue Ridge Summit, Pa.

Mr. Miller was a member of the Mencken Society, Bachelors Cotillon, Sons of the Revolution and Military Order of Foreign Wars.

His wife of 48 years, the former Carol Posten, died in 2004.

He was a longtime and active member of First and Franklin Street Presbyterian Church, 210 W. Madison St., where a memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday.

Also surviving are two sons, William M. Miller Jr. of Durham, N.C., and Timothy K. Miller of Chambersburg, Pa.; two daughters, Margaret Miller Jarosinski of Towson and Susan M. Lloyd of Hightstown, N.J.; and 11 grandchildren.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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