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Engineer specialized in creative answers

| Friday, June 14, 2013, 7:25 a.m.
William Howard Miller, 82, of Mt. Lebanon, died Tuesday, June 11, 2013, with his family by his side.

Demand for products so specialized many believed they could never be created fueled William Miller's desire to invent solutions.

“He was the kind of guy that said, ‘I can do it,' ” son Mark Miller said. “For him, failure was not an option. Success was the only choice.”

William “Bill” Howard Miller of Mt. Lebanon died on Tuesday, June 11, 2013. He was 82.

Mr. Miller, who was born and raised in Wisconsin, graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a bachelor's degree in metallurgical engineering in 1953.

He utilized those skills to establish a one-man operation in Cecil, Washington County, that became an innovative leader in centrifugally cast products.

“That business ultimately made some pretty amazing products,” Mark Miller said. “We grew up watching him do that. Both (brother) Bill and I would work summertimes and were able to witness the manufacturing.”His company, Miller Centrifugal Casting Co., produced highly engineered components for military jets, nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers, among others.

When Westinghouse needed electrical motors with copper rings that could conduct electricity to a specific percentage, only Mr. Miller could make them.

And when Raytheon Co., which specializes in defense technology, needed equipment that could detect mines in the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea, it was Mr. Miller who formulated the necessary parts.

“We knew this wasn't the ordinary kind of dad,” Mark Miller said. “I think we knew that he was a special man. It sinks in a lot harder after he passes. When you have a big man that's done a lot of big things, it leaves behind a big void.”

Before Mr. Miller became a sensation in the engineering world, he was a standout college athlete and lieutenant in the Army.

He started on offense and defense for his college football team as the place kicker, a distinction that his sons said was unique for the time because players weren't recruited for kicking skills.

During his time in the Army, Mr. Miller was living in Washington, in a building near airline flight attendants. The night he knocked on the door of lovely flight attendant Anne, in search of a bottle opener, is the night he fell in love.

The young couple wrote letters when Mr. Miller returned to Wisconsin and she to her hometown, Pittsburgh. But one New Year's Eve, Mr. Miller wanted to formalize the relationship, so he hitch-hiked to an airport in Chicago to fly to Pittsburgh and propose to Anne.

The couple was married for 58 years.

They spent a lot of time golfing together and enjoying their family, son Bill Miller said.

Mr. Miller volunteered his time serving on the Upper St. Clair school board and coaching youth football.

Mr. Miller is survived by his wife Anne, sons Bill Miller and Mark Miller and daughter Nancy Snyder.

A service will be held at 10 a.m. Friday in Southminster Presbyterian Church, 799 Washington Road, Mt. Lebanon.

Amanda Dolasinski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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