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Basketball played big role in teacher's life

| Saturday, Jan. 27, 2001

It wasn't always easy for Duquesne Dukes basketball players in the 1930s to go out on dates because the coach kept a tight rein on the team.

So when Walt Miller of the Dukes went out with Alice Bullion when he was supposed to be resting up for a game, he got in trouble with the coach, Chick Davies.

But the couple quickly overcame that setback, continued dating and were married for 60 years.

Walter P. 'Walt' Miller, a resident of Lincoln Place and an educator and former professional basketball player, died from complications of a stroke on Sunday, Jan. 21, 2001, at Mercy Hospital, Uptown. He was 85.

Alice Miller recalled the night that she and Walt Miller attended a dance at Duquesne.

'It was the night before a game, and the players were supposed to be in their dorms. Coach Davies walked in on us, and he wasn't too happy. Walt had also won a prize during the evening. Coach Davies took it off of Walt and gave it to someone else.

'That's the price his players paid when they broke the rules. Coach Davies was strict, but a gentleman.'

Born and raised in Homestead, Walter Miller was one of three children in the family of Phillip and Martha Jackish Miller. His father was a bartender at the former Miller's Hotel in Homestead.

In 1933, Walt Miller and Alice Bullion graduated from Homestead High School, where he played football and basketball. 'We dated through high school,' she said. 'We continued dating while we were both attending Duquesne University.'

In 1937, following graduation from Duquesne, Mr. Miller was a teacher in the Homestead district, and Alice Bullion taught English in what is now the Steel Valley School District.

They married in 1941 before Mr. Miller joined the Navy. As an officer and athletic director, he conducted physical training workouts for enlisted men at various naval bases.

Alice Miller would visit her husband at the bases before he was sent overseas. 'I was always one of Walt's biggest fans. I watched Walt play basketball at Homestead High School, Duquesne University, in the Navy and professionally.

'Throughout the war, Walt wrote to me every day. I received letters from California, Pearl Harbor and Okinawa.'

In 1945, following his discharge, Mr. Miller played professional basketball for the Youngstown Bears, Pittsburgh Ironmen and an Altoona team. Alice Miller recalled a snowstorm on Thanksgiving Day in 1950 that stranded her husband in Altoona and he 'practically walked back to Homestead.'

Mr. Miller was a teacher and assistant football and basketball coach in the Homestead School District until 1953, and for the next 22 years he was a principal and basketball coach in the Wilkinsburg School District. He retired in 1975.

Mr. Miller was inducted into the Duquesne University, Elks and western Pennsylvania halls of fame. He was a scratch golfer and a regular at the Duquesne Golf Club. He was a member of St. John Mark Lutheran Church, Masonic Lodge 582 and Homestead Elks Lodge 650.

Mr. Miller is survived by his wife, Alice Bullion Miller; a daughter, Eileen Olar of Clairton; a son, Walter Miller Jr. of Scotland; four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. He was the brother of Helen M. Miller of Munhall and the late Wilimina Newman.

Services were conducted Thursday at the George Irvin Green Funeral Home, 3511 Main St., Munhall.

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