dad, Bishop Jim Earp, Steve Lindsey (nephew) @ Dillon Beach in the late 80’s (scan)
Jim Earp was one of my dad’s very favorite people in the world. I know his words would mean a lot to him-
Yesterday, I received the sad news from Annie Miller that her father and our dear friend, Bob Miller had passed away.
Back in the mid 1980s, I served as a young bishop for our church in Petaluma, CA. Because of our small numbers, we always rejoiced whenever a new family would move into the ward. So, the Sunday that Bob and Connie Miller showed up with their four young kids in tow, I wasted no time bringing them into my office to get acquainted.
It took about a nanosecond to see that Connie was as sweet a person as you would ever come across. Bob was quick to assure me that Connie and the kids would be coming to church, but was careful to leave himself out of that equation.
Somewhere inside my head a little switch flipped and the thought came to me, “OK, so this guy is my next project.”
Fortunately, that is not what followed. What actually happened was that as Sue and I got to know the Millers, we fell in love with them and they became dear friends — the kind that you could invite over at the drop of a hat for dinner or dessert, or to just hang out, play some songs on the guitar and enjoy one another’s company.
Bob had a great sense of humor and enjoyed a good story — and he had a bunch of them stored up from a life that could best be described as “colorful.” He had made a lot of interesting acquaintances along the way. Once, he invited Sue and me to come with him and Connie to see the legendary Charles Brown perform in Berkeley. We got front row seats, listened to some great classic blues and even got to visit with Charles backstage after the show. Turns out, Charles was a close friend with a member of Bob’s family!
He was a great lover of — and quite versed in — music of all kinds, but especially blues, country and bluegrass. He always enjoyed it when I pulled out the guitar and we would all sing some John Denver songs together — which was a bit of a mystery to me why someone who appreciated good music all his life would enjoy my rather modest musical skills — but it was also an honor.
Bob was a born salesman. He had an endless supply of great ideas for selling something and making money. They didn’t always work out, but that never deterred him from pursuing the next opportunity.
I learned early in life that it’s generally not a good idea to mix friendship and business, so I had always studiously avoided opportunities from friends to make a buck. However, Bob has the singular distinction in my entire life of selling me on an idea he had come up with to produce a memorabilia book for Little League baseball players, where they could store their team photos, record their baseball stats and blend it all with some great baseball stories that taught the value of teamwork, sportsmanship and learning the fundamentals with discipline and hard work. We didn’t sell many of them, but I still have a case of those books in my shed — relics of some great memories and our enduring friendship.
Anyone who knew Bob knows how much he loved his family. Connie, Carin, Deedee, Michael and Annie were the center of his universe. I think he always thought he won the jackpot when he won Connie’s heart. She is not only the rebar that has given their family strength, she is the brick and mortar, too. Together, he and Connie raised a wonderful family that has remained close as they have grown up and are now raising families of their own.
How grateful I am that during our recent trip to Utah, Sue and I took the opportunity to spend a wonderful afternoon with Bob, Connie, Carin and Dede, and some of their kids. We sensed as we left that it might be the last time we would see Bob in this life.
I have this personal belief that is an extension of my faith — and that is that our closest friendships were forged before we ever came to this earth. That once here, we have the opportunity to renew those relationships and prove them while on this mortal journey.
A friend I met during our BYU days — and have kept all these years — recently described me as a “highly favored” friend — one of less than a handful throughout his entire life. That touched me deeply and confirmed to me that the most valuable work of our lives is found in how well we deal with our family and friends.
I can think of no higher compliment than to say that Bob and Connie Miller are “highly favored” in my life, that I am grateful that they are part of the fabric of our lives, and that I fully expect our friendship to endure not only through the ages, but in the eternities.