1920 – 2016
Putnam – Robert J. “Bob” Miller, 95, of Liberty Highway, died Wednesday, August 24, 2016 at Westview Health Care Center. He was the loving husband of Winifred “Wini” (Rushford) Savulis-Miller. Born in Putnam, he was the son of the late Telesphore and Edith (Johnson) Miller. Bob attended Saint Mary’s School, and graduated from Putnam High School, class of 1938.
Bob married Marion E.K. Leavestrom, of Worcester Ma. In 1948. They raised five children. Marion passed away in June of 1973. Bob was remarried in 1977 to Loretta St. Onge Johnston, gaining eight stepchildren. Loretta passed away on January 25, 2003.
After working as a mill hand in local textile mills as a young man, Mr. Miller became employed at the National Chromium Company, in Putnam, a small electro-plating firm. Miller spent 43 years as a Foreman, Sales Manager and Vice President of National Chromium Co., retiring in 1985. Bob took a leave of absence from National Chromium to enlist in the United States Army during WWII. He served in the Asiatic Pacific Theater of Operations with Battery B, 789th Field Artillery Battalion, in Combat Intelligence and Prisoner Detail. He was awarded the Asiatic Pacific Theater Campaign Ribbon, American Theater Campaign Ribbon, Philippine Liberation Ribbon, Good Conduct Medal and the WWII Victory Medal. He was honorably discharged with the rank of Staff Sergeant, and returned to National Chromium in 1946.
Bob was active in scouting, joining the Boy Scouts of America Troop 23 in 1933. He was selected by the Boy Scouts of America National office to represent his Council at the first Boy Scouts of America national jamboree in Washington, D.C., to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Scouting in America. In that same year, 1937, Bob attained the rank of Eagle Scout. Bob first became a Scoutmaster at the age of 18, was Scoutmaster of St. Mary’s Church Troop 21 for 25 years, and held various executive positions along the way, including District Commissioner and District Chairman. He was awarded the Silver Beaver Award, which recognizes registered Scouters of exceptional character who have provided distinguished service within a council. A devout Catholic, He was a communicant of Saint Mary Church of the Visitation, and a member of Saint Mary’s choir for many years. Bob devoted many years of distinguished service to the Putnam community, holding public office as Chairman of the Water Commission 1967 – 1972, Board of Selectmen 1963 – 1969, First Selectman 1973 – 1975, Economic Development Commission 1976 – 1985, and a Member of the Democratic Town Committee 1964 – 1978.
He was a member of the Aspinock Historical Society for 36 years, giving many lectures, slide shows and walking tours, most of them related to the history of textile mills in Northeastern Connecticut. Bob was the first Putnam Municipal Historian, holding that position from 1989 until retiring in 2006. The Robert J. Miller History award is presented each year to a deserving student at Putnam Elementary School. On August 8, 1998, the town of Putnam dedicated the Robert J. Miller Park, in honor of the municipal historian. The park marks the start of the Putnam River Trail. A quote from an area newspaper says it all: “Perhaps Miller’s greatest life-long assets have been his love of people, his listening ear, and his willingness to help anyone in need, regardless of nationality or creed”.
In addition to his wife, Robert is survived by his sons, Stephen Miller of Bristol, CT, Ernst Miller of Torrington, CT, and Philip Miller of Thompson, CT; his daughter, Maria Miller of Medford, MA; his stepsons, Arthur Johnston of Woodstock, CT, Kevin P. Johnston of Pomfret, CT, Peter Johnston of Danielson, CT, Mark Johnston of Dayville, CT, and Shawn Johnston of N. Grosvenordale, CT; his step-daughters Roberta Hayes of Dayville, CT, Christine Lessig of East Woodstock, CT, and Rosemary Surdyka of Wilbraham, MA; his grandchildren, Austin Miller, Audrey May Anderson, Virginia Miller, and Andrew Miller. In addition to his previous wives, Marion and Loretta, he was predeceased by his eldest daughter, Ann K. Miller, in 2013, his sister, Dorothy Miller, and brother Norman “Spike” Miller. The Miller and Johnston families extends heartfelt thanks to Dr. Joseph Botta and the wonderful, caring staff at Westview Health Care Center.
Relatives and friends are invited to visit with Robert’s family from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm on Sunday, August 28, 2016 in the Gilman Funeral Home, 104 Church St., Putnam. A gathering will begin in the funeral home on Monday, August 29, 2016 at 9:00 am followed by a Mass of Christian Burial at 10:00 a.m. in St. Mary Church of the Visitation, 218 Providence St, Putnam, CT. Burial with Military Honors will follow in St. Mary Cemetery. Memorial donations may be made to Alzheimer’s Association Connecticut Chapter, 200 Executive Boulevard, Suite 4B, Southington, CT 06489. For memorial guestbook visit www.GilmanAndValade.com.