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Epilogue | Clayton C. Miller

Trader's only enduring romance was with a good bargain

OLDSMAR — Clayton Miller loved to gab with strangers, so every Saturday was special. That's when he manned a booth at the Oldsmar Flea Market, wearing slacks and a pullover shirt, and red, white and blue suspenders.

He sharpened blades for customers or sold them cheap tools. If they didn't have any money, he worked out a trade.

The self-employed dental supplies dealer retired to Crystal Beach around 1990 and quickly filled his home with objects most people would find useless, from wood scraps to chandeliers.

"He had a rubber business stamp from the 1940s," said nephew Bridd Bone. "He had envelopes. He had Scotch tape so old you couldn't use it anymore."

Every once in a while, he would move all of the clutter from one side of a bulging backyard shed to the other. "It gave him something to do," said Bone, 65. "Besides, he could figure out what he had."

Mr. Miller, who spent his life making or moving merchandise, died Sept. 21 in a nursing home. He was 93.

His telephone greeting rose upward on the second syllable: "Hellooo?"

"I've seen everything," he liked to tell people. "I've been to two county fairs and one state fair."

The Easton, Pa., native also had been working since age 14, when his father died of a heart attack. He did odd jobs and played the drums when bandleader Les Brown came to town. He even played semiprofessional football.

Mr. Miller learned the dentistry business in the Navy. He worked as a salesman for Johnson & Johnson in Easton, then moved to Houston and sold diamond drill bits to dentists.

He went to Mexico to trade dental supplies for turquoise stones. He went to trade shows. He went to the altar five times.

"He traveled around a lot," said Beverly French, his only daughter. "One thing leads to another."

On the road, he bought dental chairs, turquoise stones, tools. Once, he bought 1,000 women's half-slips.

He preferred to make things out of junk rather than throw it away. He made and sold wooden stools with a fold-out stepladder, and "redneck wind chimes" out of beer cans.

"He was the original horse trader," Bone said. The statement is certainly true.

Carolyn Gary, a former wife, watched him pull a trailer containing a mare and her foal into the driveway of their home in suburban Houston.

"I said, 'What in the world are we going to do with a mama horse and a baby horse?' " said Gary, 76.

The next day, Mr. Miller learned his postman owned some pasture land and struck a deal.

Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or ameacham@sptimes.com,

.Biography

Clayton C. Miller

Born: Nov. 23, 1916.

Died: Sept. 21, 2010.

Survivors: Daughter Barbara French; three grandchildren; 10 great-grandchildren.

Memorial gathering: 3 to 6 p.m. Sunday; Fairway Pizza, 3011 Alt. 19, Palm Harbor.

Trader's only enduring romance was with a good bargain 09/30/10 [Last modified: Thursday, September 30, 2010 8:25pm]
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