It is with sorrow, that his family announces the sudden death of Walter Gerald Miller, of Port Alice, on September 25, 2015.
For 43 years, he was the husband, soul mate, and life’s partner of Mary Murphy; devoted father to son Devin of Courtenay (wife Penelope Turner) and daughter Bridget of London, Ontario (husband Adam Bergeron). He was very happy with his children’s choice of spouses and cared very deeply for both Penelope and Adam. He was the proud “Jaja” of four lively, bright, and handsome grandsons, Declan John Miller (age 8); Jack Miller Bergeron (4); Theo Veli Miller (3); and Max Murphy Bergeron (14 months).
Walter was amazed (and not-so-secretly pleased) that after growing up in a household of females, he helped produce this crew of little boys.
Walter also leaves behind his beloved older sister Marion Woodman (Paul) of Chatham, Ontario and her children Cheryl Woodman-Sherwood (Herb Sherwood); Paul Michael (Nancy Tremblay); Julie Tanton (Jamie); and Jennifer Rumble (Jeff), along with seven grand-nieces and nephews and two great-grandnephews.
His later years were brightened by being able to visit more often with this “Tribe” in Ontario, as he called them. Whenever he came, they would gather to see Walter, the colourful and cheerful uncle from BC, happy to share his jokes, laughter, and stories.
Walter also leaves behind his beloved younger sister, Margaret Bonato, and her daughter, Sarah. He and Margaret were the “Fred and Adele Astaire” of the early rock n’ roll scene in Windsor, Ontario, a brother-sister dancing duo who could show all the other teens in the mid-1950s how it was done.
In addition, he is survived by his mother-in-law, Rita Stephanic Murphy of Port Austin, Michigan. He and Rita developed a loving relationship over the 40+ years of his marriage to Mary and she will miss “Vadju,” as she called him, very much.
As well as being a devoted family man, Walter was also a dedicated teacher. His many years at Sunset Elementary School in Port McNeill were an experience he treasured. He specialized in Language Arts and especially loved teaching drama. His students’ Christmas performances of “A Logger’s Carol” (with Walter playing Scrooge) became a tradition in Port McNeill for many years. Almost as much as teaching them when they were children, he loved meeting them as adults, chatting about old times and discussing “the mysteries of the universe.”
Walter Miller was born in Ecorse, Michigan in 1940, the son of the late Alice Smigielska and the late Gerald Miller. He grew up in Windsor, Ontario. Walter served in the US Marine Corps from 1958-61. Afterwards, he attended Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan and completed a degree in education in 1967. While in university, he was coxswain of the rowing team, leading the crew to its greatest number of first-place finishes up to that time. After graduation, he began his teaching career in the Detroit public school system.
Although Walter did not believe in organized religion, let alone fortune telling, a neighbour who claimed to be adept at seeing the future surprised him in the late 1960’s by predicting that he would soon live in a place where he would always see mountains. And he did.
In 1970 Walter moved to British Columbia. Experiencing a joyous attachment to its beauty, he knew he was home. Mary joined him there in 1972. After living in Vancouver for a short time, they came to Northern Vancouver Island in 1973. They were going to stay a year. He lived there until the day he died.
Special places in the North Island were almost as important to him as the special people. They include:
Port McNeill, the place where he worked and where he met some of the most vital people in his life, his students.
Sointula, the place where he chose to live in his young manhood and middle years, put down roots, raise his family (and have a lot of fun!). The friends he made there were a mainstay of his life.
Cluxewe Resort, the place where Mary worked in various capacities from 2000-2012. Walter often joined her and helped her there. Some of the most special times in their life together were the periods–in the fall, winter, and early spring–when they would fill in as caretakers.
Port Alice, the place where he would spend most of his retirement years, until the very end. He loved his little condo, the beauty of the inlet, and the new friends he made.
Over the decades, Walter and his family enjoyed camping, hiking, kayaking, and skiing. In his last years he focused on writing children’s books and working on the memoirs of his very interesting life; walking along Port Alice’s Sea Walk; cooking great meals; visiting the library and reading the books he discovered there; listening to music (mostly jazz and classical); becoming active in the Canadian Legion, Branch 180; talking to Mary; enjoying his children, grandchildren, and friends; telling stories and reflecting on a life well-lived.
Memorial services (in Port Alice and in Sointula) will be announced within the next several weeks. In lieu of flowers, a donation can be made to the Heart and Stroke Foundation (1-877-882-2582). A tribute page for Walter can be found at