My father: Pat Miller (1931-2014)
My dad passed away on Saturday January 18th, 2014. His “death notice” was published on January 26th, but his life was so much more than those two column inches of data points. While staying in Maryland supporting my mom in making arrangements for his memorial, and faced with the task of eulogizing him. we found the notes for the eulogy he gave at his own father’s funeral in 1979. He taught me so much about writing (alongside a lifetime of experiences) that I decided I should read his words, rather than write my own. They’re quoted at the end of this piece.
This is the biography of an extraordinary life. The quotations are his:
Morton S. “Pat” Miller was born in Washington, DC on March 17th, 1931 (St. Patrick’s Day) hence the nickname “Pat.” Descended from five generations of Baltimore County MD farmers, he was the only child of Joshua A. Miller and Jewel C. Miller. He was raised in College Park, MD, which was then a small university town. Of that time, he later commented, “My dogs could run free, and nobody locked their doors.”
He attended Sidwell Friends School in Washington, graduating in 1949. Then on to Swarthmore College, PA, graduating in 1953 with a BA in English Literature. “I acquired, in order of importance, a wife and a bachelor’s degree.” He married his classmate Carol Martin on the day after their graduation, at the Friends Meeting of Washington.
Pat and Carol began their family in 1958 with Andrew, who, after graduating in English Literature from Carleton College, MN is a musician and technology consultant in Minneapolis MN. Drew married Jeanne Chiaravalli, now a clinical operations health care manager, in 2001. Daughter Laura was born in 1961, graduated in History from Wesleyan University, CT, and went on to an M.D. from Harvard. Now the assistant medical director of a health care center in Oakland, CA, she married John McHugh, a hydro geologist, in 1997. They have two children, Gabriel and Sophia.
In the summer of 1953, Pat enlisted in the US Air Force. By luck of timing, “Twice a year the Air Force chose 300 people out of the normal basic training cycle. They were taught Chinese all day, tested twice a day, and when they had whittled the group of 300 down to 30, the survivors were sent to Yale University…” where Pat was trained to intercept and translate radio communications from Chinese Air Force pilots. He attended USAF Officer Candidate School, commissioned 2nd Lieutenant in March 1955. After a short time in Japan, he was assigned as Operations Officer at an island listening post off the west coast of Korea.
Returning to the US in 1956, he joined the National Security Agency in Fort Meade MD, continuing there after leaving the military in 1958 as a civilian intelligence analyst. During this same time period, he did graduate work in English Literature at George Washington University, completing all but his thesis towards a Masters degree. A variety of managerial and staff positions over the next 16 years included duty with the Inspector General, assignment to intelligence staff of Commander-in-Chief US Pacific forces in Hawaii during the Vietnam War, and as a cryptologic program planner. He attended the Armed Forces Staff College in 1975.
In 1977, Pat was “loaned out” by NSA to the Department of State to provide cryptologic expertise to the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, and transferred permanently to State in 1979. When the Carter administration indicated its intentions to link US arms sales to human rights policy, he became the Department’s first intelligence analyst charged with analyzing and reporting on world-wide conventional arms transfers. As such he was a senior independent analyst, reporting to the Assistant Secretary for Intelligence and Research, and representing the Department on several National Intelligence Estimates.
“Intelligence analysts generally publish their work without a by-line, and must not keep personal files of their classified publications outside the office. I probably wrote at least 1,000 long and short intelligence reports over the years. My only appearance in public print was a State Department white paper on the international arms trade.” (link1 link2). During this time he created a unique program for student interns and mentored one or two undergraduates each semester. He retired in 1987, receiving the John Jacob Rogers Award for 34 years of “dedicated and valued service,” citing his “wide knowledge of substance and procedure,” “important contributions to the analysis of patterns in the world arms trade” and his “time, guidance and wisdom” as being “instrumental in the success of the Intern Program.”
After retirement, he “attempted to sell real estate in a down market,” owned and operated two small student apartment buildings, and attended the University of Maryland graduate school studying architectural history.
While living with Carol and raising their children in University Park MD for 38 years, he became affiliated with Riversdale Mansion, a National Historic Landmark, where he was weekend house manager and trainer of docents before he and Carol moved to Buckingham’s Choice, Frederick MD in 2000. A skilled woodworker, he built multiple shelves and cabinets for his own home and for others in the B.C. community. He found additional satisfaction in gardening, especially selecting plants of varying and contrasting textures and colors. Azaleas were especially dear to his heart.
At B.C. he continued his passion for architecture and history by volunteering as Senior Master Docent at the Schifferstadt Architectural Museum. As in his days at Riversdale, he loved talking with visitors, using his talent for remembering historic details and weaving them into fascinating stories. He wrote, designed and published a book about the house, “Schifferstadt 1758: A German Home In A New Land,” donating all proceeds to the museum. In 2007, he was honored by Frederick County Landmarks for his “exceptional service and generosity.”
In the B.C. community, he served four terms as chair of the Communications and Technology Committee and two terms as Member-at-large of the Resident Association Board of Directors. He co-edited the B.C. Bulletin, the literary magazine Buckingham’s Voice, and managed the in-house communications channel 970.
He died peacefully on Saturday, January 18, 2014, with his family by his side, at Buckingham’s Choice Retirement Community.
On the occasion of his own father’s death in 1979, he wrote these words, which also describe his own life rather well:
“My Dad came to the end of his life as he had lived it – he played no games, took his fences straight on, and used the time from… (when he was diagnosed until) when he died in looking back on and celebrating a life he knew to have been good and full. What more can you say of a man’s life than that?”