Thursday, December 14, 2017
News Roundup

Tom Miller, a banker and lifelong outdoorsman, dies at 83

ST. PETERSBURG — Tom Miller spent his days behind a desk at a bank, helping customers set up trusts and estates.

As often as possible, he traded in his suits for an orange vest to hunt in the Ocala National Forest. Or fish in a succession of boats.

"I married him and a boat," said Betty Jean Miller, his wife and a former Times columnist. "Some worked, some didn't."

Mr. Miller, who lived on a robust scale despite two heart attacks 26 years apart, died Saturday at Bayfront Health St. Petersburg as the result of a stroke. He was 83.

A third-generation Floridian whose parents moved to St. Petersburg in 1895, Mr. Miller was born at Mound Park Hospital (now Bayfront) in 1930. Concerned about their son's predilection for boyish pranks, Albert and Lois Miller sent him off to a boarding school in Tennessee, where he blew up the science lab. The accident cost him most of the vision in one eye.

Between college and law school, he served two years in the Army Corps of Engineers. In 1954, he married Betty Jean Schoeppe. Over the years, Mr. Miller would co-own a real estate management company; move up the ranks at Florida National Bank; and spend 20 years in what eventually became NationsBank (now Bank of America) overseeing its court and probate department.

He suffered a serious heart attack at age 36. In 1973, seven years later, doctors had him wear a heart monitor for an extended period of time.

"It's called Watergate. You're being bugged," he told a co-worker who had asked about the device he was always carrying with wires coming out of his shirt. He chuckled when his kids called him Frankenstein, or staggered around the house doing "robot theater" performances.

While he watched his health, Mr. Miller never changed his active outdoor lifestyle. Eventually, he and his friends changed their hunting destinations to Idaho, Colorado and Montana.

"Those were good times, if you can picture four of us crowding into a small Dodge pickup truck and going into the hills hunting," said Dr. Norval Marr, 89, a friend since childhood.

The men hung their duck and deer and antelope in a garage for several days in cool temperatures, then butchered the meat and brought it home in suitcases.

He kept a rifle handy at home, too, and once warned a prowler that he had him "covered." The intruder turned out to be Charlie Crist, looking to put a sign in his friend's yard.

Mr. Miller and Betty Jean traveled widely. At home, he tinkered around the house or read, and found time to chair several civic organizations.

"He loved a good party, being with people," said Betty Jean Miller, 82. "But he really valued his time outside and the people who shared that kind of stuff with him."

Mr. Miller continued to fish until he could no longer climb into the boat.

Andrew Meacham can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248.

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