On Tuesday, I lost a friend and our community lost a champion. Bobby Miller sits on my shoulder every day. When making decisions, big or small, I ask myself, “What would Bobby do?”
As numerous tributes and news articles this week mention, Bobby and Holly were important benefactors of King Street Center. While Bobby enjoyed making a big gift (and was proud to celebrate with their family name), he appreciated the power of a small gift as well. I remember shopping for shoes in the Blue Mall with my son, Andrew, when he was in middle school. Coincidentally, Bobby and Holly were in the store at the same time. Bobby overheard a stressed mother trying to patiently explain to her son that the shoes he wanted so badly were out of their price range and she attempted to re-direct him to another shelf. Meanwhile, Bobby quietly walked over to the counter and dropped his credit card. “Please make sure this mother can buy whatever shoes she’d like,” and then left me with a hug and that perpetual twinkle in his eye. On the car ride home, I felt so lucky to be able to talk through that experience with Andrew. Bobby showed him what true altruism is – what it means to really give where it counts.
In the nearly thirty years we knew each other, Bobby Miller was always quick to respond on the other end of the telephone or drop-by at King Street Center to make sure everything was ok. He was my “go-to” guy – kicking the tires of our new HVAC system or wanting to catch up on a particular kid who had reached out to confer about the Miller Scholarship. He always called me “Vick-ster.”
While it’s sometimes hard for me to admit, I know he believed in me, and even more, he believed in our kids. Our childhoods mirrored each other’s and together we were invested in the potential of all children. He understood that King Street Center needs to wrap around young people so they can be their best and most essential selves. He and Holly believed that it’s important what happens in this building, but belonging and connection in the community matters most.
Bobby held us to a high standard and was direct. “How are the books looking?” “What do you need?” He expected hard work in return and knew what it takes to accomplish big goals. From their first big campaign gift back in the early 90s to our most recent building project, they were extremely generous. His advice was as important as his philanthropy. Bobby was a decisive voice in our decision to construct a new facility in 2015. “It’s time to move forward.” And, of course I’ll never forget him whispering in my ear at our crowded capital campaign kick-off event, “I’m doubling my gift.”
While Bobby’s days of waking (extremely) early are over, we are left to carry on his legacy. His heart will live on through his beloved wife, Holly, and his work ethic lives on through his children, Tim and Stephanie.
What would Bobby do? He’d get up early, work hard, laugh lots, love his family, and dream about the big and the small of what’s possible. We will try to do the same here at King Street Center each day.
Vicky “Vick-ster” Smith