(Posted Aug. 27, 2018)
NOTE: The West Jefferson Ox Roast is slated for Sept. 1-3 at Garrette Park in West Jefferson. For a full schedule of events, go to http://www.westjeffoxroast.org/ox-roast-schedule.html.
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
To say Charlie Miller has lived an interesting and full life is an understatement.
The former West Jefferson mayor has been a military man, business owner, civic leader, church mission volunteer, husband and father. On Sept. 1, he’ll add another title to the list–grand marshal of the West Jefferson Ox Roast parade.
Charlie’s ties to West Jefferson date back to his birth on Sept. 2, 1936, to Virginia and Harold Miller. He grew up on West Main Street and graduated from West Jefferson High School in 1954.
After high school, Charlie enlisted in the United States Army where he served as a mechanic on heavy equipment at Fort Leonardwood, Missouri. When his three years were up, he moved to California hoping to get a job with an oil company so he could see the world. A recession stymied those plans so, with help from his father, he landed a job with ADT, the burglar alarm company, in Los Angeles.
About a year later, he got the marriage itch. He called Beverly Shelton, a woman he’d met in Missouri six weeks before leaving the Army.
“We hadn’t seen each other in a year. I called and asked her, ‘Want to get married?’ She said yes,” Charlie recounted.
The couple got married–twice. They secured a marriage license in Missouri the Wednesday before the wedding ceremony they had planned back in Ohio, only to find out the license wasn’t binding in Ohio.
“So, we got married on Sept. 11, 1958, in Missouri, and again on Sept. 14, 1958, in Ohio!” Charlie said.
Back in West Jefferson, Charlie got a job as a meat cutter at Darby Lane IGA, where he had worked in high school. The store was located where the town gazebo now stands on Main Street, next to town hall. At the same time, he served in the Ohio Army National Guard for eight years, 1958 to 1965.
Charlie worked at the IGA until 1980, after which he owned and operated Miller’s Quality Meats for a short time. He also worked as a quality assurance technician for Mac Tools until 2001.
“When our store went under, I went back to the National Guard. I had been out for 17 years. They let me back in. I was in my 40s at the time,” Charlie said.
He ended up serving six-and-a-half months of active duty during Desert Storm with the U.S. Air Force, stationed at Little Rock Air Force Base in Arkansas. He also spent 10.5 years in the U.S. Air Force Reserves through Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton. He retired in 1996 at 60 years old with a total of 25 years of military service.
Two of Charlie’s daughters followed in his footsteps into the military. Cindy Zeallear, who lives in West Jefferson, spent four years in the U.S. Air Force. Malinda Merrill, a Jamestown, Ohio, resident, retired as a master sergeant with the U.S. Air Force Reserves. His third daughter, Holly Payson, works for the Nevada State Museum in Carson City. He has two grandsons and one granddaughter.
As if work, military service, and family wasn’t enough to keep him busy, Charlie also spent many years as an elected official in West Jefferson, including two stints on village council in the 1970s and a third in 1992, and two stints as mayor, 1977-1986 and 1996-2003.
He said he enjoyed being mayor and is proud of his accomplishments in that role, including his part in bringing about various capital improvements. He also acknowledged that it’s a difficult job.
“I didn’t really realize the stress of it until I was out of it,” he said, then added with good humor, “At any given time, I had half the town mad at me, and it was never the same half.”
Charlie is a member of American Legion Post 201 and First Baptist Church of West Jefferson. Eight times since 1999, he has performed short-term mission work in Romania through his church. He also has served on the Ohio Historic National Road Advisory Committee, West Jefferson Alumni Association, Madison County Historical Society, West Jefferson Historical Society, and Madison County Farm Preservation Task Force, among others.
Charlie has selected a unique set of wheels as his parade car–a 1953 Willy’s Army jeep he has owned since 2000.
The West Jefferson Ox Roast parade steps off at noon Sept. 1. For more information about the parade and festival, visit www.westjeffoxroast.org.