Fifty-one years ago, a young man walked into the sale barn looking for work. Mike Miller was 12 years of age. And his career path was set.
Terry DeVaughan of the Syracuse Commission Company said, “I have been there since 1977. As I remember, he graduated high school when I went to work at the sale barn. He went to Oklahoma for three or four years and then came back. Been a good friend and he sure knows his business about cattle. Sharp, always been part of him. Smart!”
Mike also built a life filled with family, friends, and giving back to his community. One day he fell in love with a woman named Jeanie and today they have been married 37 years with six children and seven granddaughters.
Jeanie Miller said, “We have a blessed life.”
On October 6, 2022, it all changed. Mike had a seizure and they discovered he had a Meningioma brain tumor. Meningioma is the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. Jeanie explained, “It was the size of a softball on the left side of his brain. They were able to remove it but it had been there so long that it was attached in 100 places. Because it was attached in so many places, afterwards he hemorrhaged, and they had to go back in and remove the blood. Then he got an infection and the neurosurgeon had to go back in a third time to remove the infection!”
It didn’t end there, Mike had another seizure and they found out the midline of the brain was pushed into the right side of the brain which was pushed down on the brain stem. Christmas morning was spent at the hospital with pneumonia.
Today life looks different for the Millers. Sleep is rare for Jeanie as she keeps watch on Mike. Doctor appointments are regular with his neurosurgeon. Mike is working on his speech with Libby (Lewis) Elliott.
Jeanie is optimistic and filled with faith. When asked how he is doing, she said, “He’s doing great! He is laughing again! His MRI’s look good. The doctor said next week they will do an EEG to see what’s causing the seizures. And if we keep going forward he should be back to 100%!”
During this time, many asked how do we help? Some offered dinners, text messages, phone calls, rides, places to stay, and much more. Two benefits in the livestock industry took place. One in Oklahoma and one at the Syracuse Commission company.
The third one happened Saturday night. It was a group effort. The team led by Lora Horton, Toni Miller, Kerstin Mitchell, and Denise Finlay left Mike and Jeanie overwhelmed by the Syracuse community’s kindness and generosity.
Jeanie said, “It’s amazing how our community is! He’s loved and thought highly of!”
The benefit meal was organized by Lora Horton and executed by the Hamilton County 4-Hers. They worked setting up, serving, and cleaning up, all to thank Mike. Every year for as long as anyone can remember, he has done the youth auction for free.
He said he loved seeing the 4-Hers in their green shirts.
Lora Horton said, “It takes a tremendous amount of people to do an event like this successfully. This community is blessed to have a plethora of kind, hardworking, generous people that band together to get things done. My goal is to pass those ethics on to the next generation through the youth I work with, particularly in 4-H.”
The meal had zero expenses, so everything collected went directly to the family. The meal and auction were done a little differently. Takeout meals were picked up early and they did 146 carry outs. The delicious meal of roast beef, mashed potatoes, and gravy, green beans, rolls, and a dessert was served in the Butler building. The auction took place in the fair building. Auctioneer, Brian Petersen donated his time. Between the meal, auction, and donations, they raised over $42,000.00.
Denise Finlay said, “When you think of auctions in our community, it’s hard to not think of Mike Miller. Mike has done the 4-H youth auctions, the old Dairy Days auction, church auctions, when we auction off basketballs for After Prom, benefit auctions, the list can go on and on. Mike does it because he cares about the kids and the community and he does a great job! He makes it fun and raising money for those in need is a great feeling of accomplishment and he would take no credit for that, but we could not do it without him. Brian did a great job and we had our regular helpers but it felt a little odd to not have Mike up there. I am so thankful we were able to say “THANK YOU” to Mike and his family in the way he has been helping so many over the years.”
Jeanie was teary eyed and filled with warmth. She said, “I would like to thank everyone for all their support, prayers, and just being there! It’s amazing the people that have texted, called, or came by! The suppers that were brought to us! We are blessed!”
DeVaughan added, “Mike and I have spent a lot of hours over the years out there sorting cattle. I will be glad when he gets back to work. I have enjoyed the hell out of working with him.”
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