BLANCHESTER — A former longtime Blanchester mayor who loved the village and its people has died.
Melvin “Lee” Miller passed away Wednesday, just three days shy of his 88th birthday.
“Lee Miller was a pillar in his community,” said Clinton County Commissioner Patrick Haley. “We were saddened to learn that Lee died in his sleep in the early hours on December 19 in Blanchester — a town he loved, and a town that loved him.
“I have known Lee for 40 years. He was a kind man, a man who often gave the homeless food, and took the time to talk to the lonely and forlorn.
Miller served 17 years as Mayor of Blanchester. “He was instrumental in bringing American Showa to town,” said Haley. “He served the first meal at Gold Star Chili. We can enjoy a Big Mac downtown thanks to Lee bringing McDonald’s to Blan.”
Lee Miller was a graduate of Milford High School’s Class of 1948, but it would be in the Village of Blanchester where he and his wife, Janet, settled in 1966 to raise their children David, Donna, Dennis, Donnie and Diana.
Believing in country, community, and public service, he served in the Korean War, then as a member of the Blanchester Fire Department for over 15 years. He was also the founder and chief of the Blanchester Life Squad.
“One of my early childhood memories was traveling with my father to the manufacturing plant to see first-hand what the town’s first life squad would look like,” said his daughter, Diana Miller. “Once the squad was in commission, one of two emergency phone lines was installed in our family home, and we as children were trained in how to answer the phone, take down the emergency information, and contact, by telephone, squad members on call. It was a far cry from today’s 911 system, but it was a system that worked well at the time.”
In 1978, Lee began serving on Blanchester Village Council before serving as mayor from 1982 to 1996.
“It was under his administration that our village grew and prospered,” said Diana Miller. “Through his efforts, fluoridation was added to Blanchester’s water supply, and the Blanchester reservoir was expanded with the purchase of the Westboro Reservoir and the ‘cement pond’ once used by the railroad. Fairground Acres, Leonard Drive, and Fawn Court were annexed into the village corporation limits. American Showa, Walker-Williams Lumber Company (now Universal Lumber Products), and McDonald’s opened their doors creating hundreds of jobs for area citizens. Countless hours of grant writing produced financial awards that funded these undertakings and many more.”
Lee served as a Central Committeeman for Clinton County and was instrumental in the planning of the Hamilton County Juvenile Detention Center.
He also procured the initial certificate that allowed for the construction and development of Continental Manor — bringing his legacy full circle, “as it was there that my father would spend his final days, cared for by a dedicated and loving staff that treat their residents like family,” said Diana.
“To say that I am proud of my father would be an understatement. He was a man of humble means and somewhat rough around the edges. He was also one of the kindest men I’ve even known.”
She said, “I will never forget one day hearing a knock at the door and eavesdropping on a conversation between two fathers who loved their children.
“A man named George had come to ask my father for a favor. His youngest son was being held in the county jail, and George was unable to post his bond. As he fought back tears, George explained that his other son had died unexpectedly, and he was short on money.
“George had come to ask my father if there was any way possible for his son to be released so that he could attend his brother’s funeral. Dad did not hesitate to assure this grieving father that he would make the necessary arrangements.
“George thanked my father and said that he was headed to Blan Auto Parts to try to purchase a new battery for his car. I next heard my father casually mention that he had an extra battery that George was welcome to have.
“Spying through the living room curtain, I watched my father walk to his car, disconnect the battery, and present it to George.
“My father and I never discussed what had taken place that afternoon on our front porch. It was a private moment between two fathers. It was a moment in a lifetime of moments like this one that I will never forget. My father was a steadfast public servant for most all of his adult life, and the impact of his legacy to his country and community will be felt for generations to come.
“I am who I am who I am today, because of him and the values he taught me.”
For those who would like to honor the traditions of preparing food and/or meals for the family, Diana asks that you “please take those delicious and bountiful foods to the Blanchester Downtown Diner, a donation only restaurant where guests pay what they can and often above and beyond to pay for the meals of others in need.”
Memorial contributions may also be made to the Lee Miller Memorial Fund, which will also benefit the Blanchester Downtown Diner, c/o The First National Bank of Blanchester, 121 E. Main St., Blanchester, OH 45107.
“Through your acts of kindness at his passing, my father may continue to serve those in need, living in or passing through the tiny village he called home,” said Diana Miller.
“Lee will be missed,” Pat Haley added. “Our prayers go out to his daughter, Diana, and the Miller family.”
Arrangements are pending with Littleton Funeral Home.