Rev. Dr. Richard Elroy Miller
Richard Elroy Miller arrived into this world on February 25, 1931. He often joked that he was born at a very early age, and that he was born in North English, Iowa because he wanted to be near his mother. His parents called him “Dick” and raised him and his sister in other small Iowan towns, including Webster City and Waterloo. During the summers, he worked on the farms of aunts and uncles, helping with haying, driving a tractor, and riding a pony to bring in the cows for milking. Sometimes he and his cousin Bernie spent the night on top of a haystack. Dick played his harmonica until they fell asleep under the stars, which seemed close enough to reach out and touch.
While attending Cornell College in Mount Vernon, he met Valerie Jane Reynolds, a brilliant and beautiful farm girl from west central Illinois. They married in September 1952 and soon welcomed two children, David Michael and Kathleen Anne. Dick served in the Naval Reserve and earned a master’s degree from the University of Iowa before beginning his career as a life insurance salesman, following in the footsteps of his father. Then one day he gave a sermon on Layman’s Sunday. Soon after, he heard Rev. Billy Graham preaching on television, concluding the service with the hymn “Just as I Am,” and felt called to the church.
Dick was advised not to become a minister if he could help it; it turns out, he couldn’t help it. He was ordained and received a master’s in divinity from Dubuque Theological Seminary in July 1960. For the better part of the decade, he served the First Presbyterian Church of Ackley, a little town in north central Iowa that Dick likened to Mayberry: an idyllic community of kind and hardworking people. He remembered their time there as a golden era. The family moved into a handsome brick manse on Main Street and settled into a routine that included church potlucks and the annual Sauerkraut Festival. Dick became the president of the PTA, started his collection of antique clocks, and hit his first and second holes-in-one.
In 1969 the family moved to Cincinnati. A few years later, Dick and Valerie divorced. While visiting his son in Columbus, Dick stopped at McDonald’s to try the newly introduced McMuffin and met the glamorous and joyful Lois Ann Kuhn. They were married in 1976 and decided they would thereafter be known as Rick and Ann, rather than Dick and Lois. Rick became stepfather to Ann’s children, Debby, Kurt, and Lori Zimmerman. Nine years later, he accepted a call from a church in Gloucester, Virginia. He and Ann built a little white house in the woods and took picnics on the sandy beaches of Chesapeake Bay. In 1989 Rick earned his fourth and final degree, a doctorate of divinity, from Union Theological Seminary. When Ann was diagnosed with cancer in the spring of 1994, he devoted the next months to taking loving care of her. She passed away that October.
The next summer, Rick announced his first attempt at retirement. He moved to St. Louis to be near his daughter, Kathy, and her growing family. He could have easily filled his days with the things he loved: playing ping-pong, conducting genealogical research, solving sudoku puzzles, sitting on the back porch swing, watching The Andy Griffith Show, enjoying the occasional slice of strawberry rhubarb pie, and letting his grandchildren (and later great-grandchildren) climb all over him. He had an immense capacity for joy. When asked how he was doing on any particular day, he often responded, “I am superb in every facet of my being.”
However, work was also a source of joy to Rick, and he wasn’t quite finished as a man of the cloth. Soon after arriving in St. Louis, he came out of retirement to accept a call at New Hope Presbyterian Church of St. Peters. He spent the next two decades serving as interim pastor at a myriad of churches in the St. Louis area. After each interim appointment came to an end—although every congregation asked him to stay, the Presbytery has strict rules about interim ministers—he entertained the idea of retiring again, but then another church called, and he answered.
Rick often said he was glad to be of service. If you ever met him, you can likely attest to that fact. He was constantly looking for ways to uplift not only parishioners but cashiers at the grocery store, members of the Kirkwood Chamber of Commerce, and every single one of his relatives—or just make them smile with one of his terrible puns. Over the fifty-plus years he spent in the ministry, he preached an estimated 3,026 sermons and presided over hundreds of baptisms, weddings, and funerals.
He planned to officiate the wedding of his grandson Luke to Kylie Austin but fell ill weeks before the wedding. On August 5, 2022, Rick performed the ceremony from his bed in the critical care unit of Mercy Hospital. The nurses decorated the room for the occasion, and he wore his clerical robes. In his final ministerial act, he prayed, blessed the couple, and signed the marriage certificate. A couple of hours later, with David and Kathy by his side, Rick breathed his last breath and went home to Jesus.
He was preceded in death by his wife Lois Ann Miller; his parents, Clair and Margaret Miller; and his sister, Marlyn Anderson. He is survived by David Miller of Port Townsend, Oregon; Kathy Evans of St. Louis, Missouri and her children Micaela (Peter) Gauss, Holly (Randy) Evans, Grace (Drew) Jones, and Luke (Kylie) Evans; Debby Zimmerman of London, Ohio; Kurt (Sallie) Zimmerman of London, Ohio and their children Amie Pennington and Rick (Cara) Zimmerman; Lori (Steve) Murlin of Plain City, Ohio and their children Evan (Shannon) Murlin and Jared (Amelia) Murlin; as well as fifteen great-grandchildren and step-great-grandchildren.
Services: A memorial service will be held on Saturday, September 24 at the First Presbyterian Church of Kirkwood, 100 East Adams Avenue, Kirkwood, MO 63122 at 4:00 p.m. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the charity of your choice—whatever makes you think of him.