Can-do attitude framed Unity veteran's life
Growing up in Unity during the Depression, Russell Miller was no stranger to hard work.
He proved that throughout his life, whether it was digging graves by hand, serving as a caretaker at a Laughlintown cottage or working multiple jobs at one time.
“He was extremely hardworking. He knew the value of hard work. He instilled those values in his children,” said his daughter, Russene M. Miller-Horansky of Greensburg.
Russell J. Miller, 87, of Unity died Friday, Sept. 1, 2017, in Excela Latrobe Hospital.
He was born Nov. 10, 1929, in Latrobe, the son of the late Leo S. and Martha R. Schandel Miller.
He helped his father, a church sexton, dig graves by hand at St. Vincent Cemetery. As a laborer for Westmoreland Construction, he worked a jackhammer on construction jobs.
While working full time as a die setter and machine operator at Latrobe Die Casting Co., he also held side jobs to earn extra money for the family and for the hunting trips he loved, Miller-Horansky said.
He met the love of his life, Irene M. Kostley, while lining up for graduation ceremonies at Greater Latrobe High School in 1947.
Mr. Miller did not have a car and his family did not have a phone at home, but that did not stop him from courting his future wife. He would hitchhike into Latrobe from his family's home near the Latrobe Airport to see her, Miller-Horansky said.
He was drafted into the Army in September 1951 and secretly took marriage classes at Fort Knox, Ky. He proposed to Irene in a phone call, and the couple got married Dec. 26, 1951. The couple were married for 65 years.
Before he shipped overseas to fight in the Korean War, he traveled back to Latrobe from Fort Knox by flagging down rides. In the end, he had only one hour to spend with his new bride before returning to duty.
“That's how precious his love for her was,” Miller-Horansky said.
In addition to his wife and daughter, Mr. Miller also is survived by daughter Michele I. Statile of Mill Creek, Wash.; three sons, James R. Miller, Jeffrey J. Miller and Mark R. Miller, all of Latrobe; five grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.
Visitation will be held at 8 a.m. Thursday at Frederick Funeral Home Inc., 1543 Ligonier St., Latrobe, followed by a funeral Mass at 10 a.m. at St. Vincent Basilica, Unity. Interment will follow in St. Vincent Cemetery.
Memorial contributions should be sent to American Association for Lost Children, 539 Fred Rogers Drive, Latrobe, PA 15650.
Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-5252 or email@example.com.