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Victor J. Miller

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Victor J. Miller Obituary
HARLEM Victor Miller, 58, a longtime Blaine County commissioner and musician, died from complications of diabetes Saturday, Aug. 18, at Peace Hospice in Great Falls.

A celebration of Victor's life is 2 p.m. Saturday at the Harlem High School gym in Harlem, with a potluck and jam session to follow at the Harlem City Park. Edwards Funeral Home in Chinook is handling arrangements.

Victor was born Dec. 15, 1953, in Havre to Jay and Alice Hay Miller of Harlem. He attended school in Harlem and graduated from Harlem High School in 1972. He enlisted in the U.S. Army after graduation, completing basic training at Fort Ord, Calif., and graduating from the U.S. Army Academy of Health Sciences for advanced U.S. individual training in Fort Sam Houston, Texas. He served at Bad Kreuznach, Germany, from 1973 to 1975, where his duties included drug and alcohol therapy, crisis intervention and group sessions. He was honorably discharged from the Army in 1975. Vic attended the University of Montana in Missoula, where he received his Bachelor of Science in business administration, with an emphasis in economics in 1979. He obtained a master's of education in adult and higher education from Montana State University-Bozeman in 1987, where he also completed coursework toward his doctorate ABD. He then attended Northern Montana College in Havre, Mont., where he received his second bachelor's in education (social studies broadfield), graduating with distinction in 1992.

He was elected mayor of the city of Harlem in 1989 and was elected to a second term in 1993. As mayor, his accomplishments included development of the neighborhood revitalization project, ordinance and resolution review and code rewriting project, fire engine and police fleet modernization, water storage tank, Little Rockies Senior and Medical Center, enacting a regional mutual aid fire agreement (five counties and two reservations).

Vic was an instructor, adviser and member of various committees at Fort Belknap College from 1983-1996. During his tenure at the college, he was elected Instructor of the Year during the 1984-85 and 1988-89 school years, and in 1995 co-wrote the first Fulbright Group Project grant involving tribal colleges in the nation.

In 1992, he was voted "Blaine County Precinct Person of the Year." He was elected to the Blaine County Commission, taking office in January of 1997 and was re-elected in 2007. He was elected president of the Montana Association of Counties in 2002. He served as executive director of District IV HRDC in Havre. He served as a consultant and adviser to various individuals and organizations across the country throughout his life and co-authored and administered grants in excess of $3 million.

An accomplished writer, his publications include "Reflections and Observations from the New Kid on the Block," in Montana Policy Review, 1997; "Using Marketing Projects to Stimulate Economic Development," Great Ideas for Teaching Marketing, 1991; "Fire Devils," Fire in the Wind, 1993; and served as a curriculum adviser and textbook critique for economic curriculum developed by First Nations Development Institute in conjunction with the Joint Commission on Economics Education.

Vic was a member of the Percussive Arts Society, the Harlem Volunteer Fire Department, Montana Association of Counties (MACo), National Association of Counties (NACo), American Federation of Musicians, Phi Delta Kappa, the Montana Democratic Party, National Drum Association, Montana Family Union, Bear Paw Development Corporation Board of Directors, Board of Advisers for Fort Belknap Small Business and Information Center, Fort Belknap Industries Board of Advisors and the Montana Council for Workforce Equality.

In addition to public service and his family and friends, the love of his life was music. Vic was an accomplished musician and percussionist throughout his life. He played with Hank Thompson, Gairrett Brothers, Freeman Harper Bank, Jake Reum, "Bigg" John Contway Blues Band, the Twisters, Logna and Blind Luck. He recorded with Gairrett Brothers, Freeman Harper Band, Maruga Booker's "Spirit Mountain" project, Jake Reum's "Make Love Real" project and Kenny Overcast's "Silver and Gold" remake project. He was also a percussion technician with John Denver and Michito Sanchez and provided lighting consultation services to the Eddies, Cheap Trick, Southern Pacific and Montana Stage Lighting. He amassed an extension collection of drums and had placements in the Classic Drum Museum in England, the Ludwig Museum in Chicago, the Percussive Arts Museum in Oklahoma, the Booker Collection in California and the Montana Historical Society Museum and Rutledge and Barker Collections in Montana.

He is survived by sisters Pamela (Bill Dougherty) Conatser, Darla (Shawn) Dahl of Havre and Carla (Bill) Chambers of Harlem and nieces and nephews, Trampus (Trish) Conatser, Nettijay (Scott) Foster, Krista and Hailey Chambers, Jaylee and Brandi Berg and Colten Dahl.

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Published in Great Falls Tribune on Aug. 22, 2012
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