My father-in-law, David Miller Sr., “Pops”, is an inspiration. South Island Living magazine recently featured his story.
Please enjoy highlights from Pops’ interview.
David Miller Sr.
Photo by Steve Leimberg UnseenImages.Com
There are those rare opportunities you meet someone with true vision, and when you do you are inspired with a sense of grace and awe. That is what happened when we met Dave Miller. Dave, or more fondly known as “Pops,” has been a true visionary throughout his life’s journey. Not only does he have the vision, he is a man of action, making his ideas come to life. He is never afraid to make a decision.
Dave was born in 1929 in Jacksonville, FL. He was the second youngest of seven children. He had four brothers and two sisters. Dave’s work ethic and entrepreneurial focus started early. At age 14, he and his brother, Frank, began a tree cutting business to earn spending funds as there was no allowance money. He went to the University of Florida and was in the ROTC. Upon graduation he joined the Air Force and ran the commissary, which may have piqued his interest in retail. After his time in the Air Force he accepted a job with JCPenney. With a job secured, he and his wife decided to start a family. Nine months later their oldest son Dave was born.
Two years later Dave and Gloria had triplets! Clara and Liz are identical and Jane is fraternal. Their birth was so unusual for that era that they made the cover of the Florida Times Union… the first set of triplets born at Baptist Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida.
The early days at JCPenney were modest times for the Millers.
Dave was a hard worker and very persistent. From the ages of 30 to 40 he suffered from significant monthly fevers, taxing his overall health, strength and immune system. Doctors thought he had a fatal disease. After 10 years of fevers Dave had a “burning bush” moment. He heard a voice telling him he would be all right. He went to Yale Medical for a series of tests and one doctor suggested he eat a low- fat diet. That is exactly what he did and his fevers miraculously disappeared!
Dave pursued his career with even more passion and moved up the ranks quickly! Eventually Dave was the President and Vice Chairman of JCPenney. He was recognized for his innovations and decision making. During his tenure, Dave headed the steering committee which made the decision to discontinue hard goods and focus on soft goods. This change in strategy eventually led JCPenney to become the most profitable retailer in America for six years.
On a personal note, Dave and his family owned a vacation home on Jekyll Island in the early 70s. Dave had heard about a new development on the south end of Amelia Island and was anxious to check it out. During a family vacation, his son had to take his girlfriend to the Jacksonville airport for a flight home. Pops went with them with the intention of visiting the development. They were running late so Pops asked to be dropped off at The Waffle House at the A1A/I-95 exit. He hitched a ride with a farmer to the makeshift sales office. An hour later, when his son came to find him, Dave had committed to six condos and had put up the down payments. (Man of action!)
Dave was one of the first purchasers on the Amelia Island Plantation. He bought two for his family with the rest for his friends at JCPenney. One of his best friends, Hap Varner still owns his place on the Plantation.
When Pops retired in 1990 he was certainly not ready to rest on his success. He helped to establish the Boys & Girls Club of Nassau County. He brought together influential people and formed a group who purchased the land and built the facility in Yulee. Over the years Pops gave his time and money to the center. And when it was named the Miller Freedom Center, it was Dave who wanted the word “freedom.” He knew the Boys & Girls Club provides children the freedom to excel. Each year an essay contest encourages the children to write about what freedom means to them.
Dave’s love for his alma mater, The University of Florida, prompted him to establish The Miller Retail Center at The University of Florida. Dave wanted
to create a center to stimulate student interest in careers in retail. The UF Miller Center has become one of the top retail programs in the country.
One of the most memorable moments for Dave is his hole in one on the 12th hole at Augusta National. The pin placement…the famous Sunday pin placement during the Masters.
Dave/Pops, thank you for not only having the vision to make a difference but the guts to make it all happen.
Thank you to Brian Gilbert and Catherine Constable with N2 Publishing.
Thank you to Steve Leimberg, UnseenImages.Com for his spectacular photos.
Watch for an upcoming post with some of Pops’s favorite healthy recipes!
Come celebrate with me. I’ll save you a seat at the table.