Kurt was a true and loyal friend for nearly 40 years. He left behind his two lovely adult children, his gracious wife Julie Bradbury Miller, and his thriving veterinary practice. My condolences go to his wonderful family and to all who were lucky enough to have Kurt as a part of their lives everyday. Kurt will be forever missed by all the people and animals who knew him, and indeed leaves an irreplaceable void in all of our lives that no one else can ever fill. In a word, Kurt was unique: he lived a big life, dared and accomplished great things and earned the loyalty, respect, friendship and admiration of thousands of people while maintaining his dignity, openness, authenticity and genuine friendliness to everyone he met.
Kurt was a man of substance and gravitas, empathetic to his core, kind to the powerless, protective of the weak, implacably opposed to all forms of bullying and oppression, yet so aware of his own frailties and failings that his greatest laughs were at his own expense. And laugh he did: Kurt could usually be found in the center of a group of friends, all laughing so hard they could barely stand as tears streamed down their face. To meet Kurt was to love him, to know him was to be welcomed, to think of him was to feel joy.
Determination, dedication, hard work, an incandescent intelligence, grace, kindness and a keen appreciation for both the laughable absurdity and solemn seriousness of life were hallmarks of Kurt´s life and personality from his earliest days. Despite being captain of his state championship hockey team in his Missouri high school, a life-long straight A student and having a preternatural connection with and affinity for animals, anyone who met Kurt knew him simply as a warm, kind and generous gentleman. Animals and children, both wild and tame, would gravitate to him. "It´s OK," he would tell embarrassed owners when their animals would accost him walking on the street, "I´m a vet." "But my dog HATES vets. Maybe I should bring him to you..." would often come the bewildered reply. Kurt was never in a hurry to prove how smart, funny and classy he was, he let us all figure that out on our own while he mostly listened.
Kurt left Missouri in 1983 for Colorado College where he met the love of his life, Julie Bradbury, who became his wife and life partner. He also met some of his most treasured friends, relationships he maintained to his last day. While studying in Colorado, Kurt had enough grand adventures for a lifetime and availed himself of every chance he could find to ski, hike, camp or climb in the mountains and deserts of the state that became his second home. Kurt traveled widely and broadly, living in, among other places, California, New York, Asia and West Africa for his studies in animal health and behavior. He was a lead or sub on several published papers.
After graduating Summa cum Laude from the University of Missouri´s School of Veterinary Medicine, Kurt settled in Wilmette, IL and eventually started his own veterinary practice . This was deliberate: while Kurt had seen the world and could have chosen to live anywhere and been welcomed as an asset to any community he lived, he loved the American Midwest, where the understated Midwestern values that formed him and characterized his life were always in evidence: love of family, kindness to all, commitment to work and fierce loyalty to friends and community.
"Dr. Kurt Miller´s Winnetka Animal Hospital" quickly became a North Shore institution, the place where animals and the families who loved them could be cared for, treated and healed. "Dr. Kurt" was widely known for taking as much time as people needed to understand exactly what was wrong with their animal and how to cure them. Kurt took calls at all hours of the day and night and even called clients in the evening to check on the day´s surgical patients. Kurt often talked about the importance of a vet treating the entire family, since everyone had an individual relationship with their animal, so his practice was really as a "Family Veterinarian". When the pandemic struck, Kurt paid his entire staff their full salary, whether the office was open or not. He had dreams of his children eventually taking over his practice, a dream of continuity of relationships and excellence that typified who he was.
Kurt was a modern Renaissance man, with broad and deep interests across nearly every field of human endeavor. Given a short explanation, whether it was astrophysics or family dynamics, Kurt developed an intimate understanding that only comes to people of extreme emotional and intellectual intelligence. An incredibly quick study, Kurt became an expert and connoisseur at everything that caught his attention whether it was fine art, television dramas, architecture, wood working, fine wine, the outdoors, politics, and on and on and on. He was someone countless friends, relatives and even strangers turned to for help, advice or just a patient soul to talk to. He had time for everyone. As insightful and prescient in music as he was in everything else, Kurt always seemed to know the best new bands and saw every major act that came through town.
Kurt could have chosen any number of challenging and rewarding fields and been wildly successful in any of them but chose to excel in Veterinary medicine, arguably the most difficult medical practice of all. He was so dedicated to fly fishing that he introduced many friends to the sport and he was such an outstanding cook that he easily could have been a professional chef. While he had a busy and full life, Kurt was never happier than when he was enjoying a big meal he had prepared for family and friends, sharing a new culinary technique he had learned and introducing everyone to a wine he discovered. He was almost pastoral in his care and concern for friends, and always took over cooking duties at parties. He had a way of making everyone feel they were the center of his world.
Kurt was an active beer league hockey player and was an avid golfer, among many other athletic pursuits. As a St. Louis native, Kurt remained a lifelong Cardinals and Blues fan, but living in Chicago during an unprecedented series of championship seasons meant he could not help but get swept up in the excitement of the Bulls and Blackhawks, and he even softened a bit on the previously hated Cubs. Even in his fandom, Kurt was generous and kind. When a friend´s team beat the Cards in the playoffs, Kurt was always the first one on the phone with congratulations, and with his observations of the strengths and weaknesses of the team and their prospects for a championship. Inevitably, his analysis was spot on.
It is said that the "tincture of time" will slowly help us to come to terms with our loss and that eventually, in the fullness of time, we may remember the joy someone brought us before the tears of loss start to fall all over again. Kurt has been different. I cannot go more than a few seconds without remembering his laugh and the joy he brought to my life and that of so many others. As the years go by, I am sure the pain of his absence will only grow.
So we mourn the loss of a great man, Kurt Miller: a devoted husband, a doting father, a loyal friend, a gifted healer, a tireless builder of community, a stalwart pillar of strength in times of need, a compassionate guide lighting our way. We will miss him, but we are far richer, and greatly privileged, for having had Kurt in our lives.