Liz Taylor has her perfume. George Foreman has his grill. David Letterman has Late Night.
Dale Miller has his road.
I’ve wondered about Dale Miller since my company, When Words Matter, held its annual meeting at Nine Eagles State Park near Davis City, Iowa, last month. The county road running past the park entrance is named Dale Miller Road. In an area better known for its horse-drawn Amish buggies or an infamous Big Foot sighting in 2000, I was curious about this Dale Miller fellow.
Decatur County historian Dick Priest pointed me in the right direction; Dale Miller’s wife, Gretchen, and his daughter, Judy Larsen, completed the story.
Dale “Bookie” Miller was a long-time Decatur County road department employee. He got his nickname not from illicit gambling activities, but from his early duty as a bookkeeper and his reputation for following the book while performing his duties.
From the time he graduated from high school to his retirement in 1984, except for the time he spent surveying in the South Pacific while serving his country in World War II, Miller was a dedicated Decatur County employee. It could be harrowing work.
Once, while checking out road improvement work, he stumbled into an old well on the side of the road. Realizing that a bulldozer would arrive soon, pushing tons of dirt into the well, he scrambled to escape. After three tries, he was successful, eventually arriving at his home soaking wet from the experience.
Miller was assistant county engineer when Decatur County paved a stretch of J66 in 1964, creating the county’s first paved farm-to-market road. Miller spent 16-hour days overseeing the project as paving materials were delivered and mixed on site.
In 1999, his daughter, Judy Larsen, began writing to the Decatur County Board of Supervisors to inquire about naming that road after her “wonderful, humble, dad.” After corresponding for a few months, the supervisors agreed to the plan. On December 13, 1999, that original paved stretch of J66 became Dale Miller Road.
“It was a complete surprise to my dad,” Larsen said. “I wanted it to be named Dale Miller Road during his lifetime, so that he would know about that.”
Dale Miller is now enjoying retirement with his wife, Gretchen, in Leon, Iowa. He’ll turn 87 on Nov. 4.
Don’t forget. I’ll be conducting a one-hour workshop on family history at 1 p.m. on Saturday at the Iowa Genealogical Society’s annual state conference in Marshalltown. There’s lots more going on too. Check it out.
Photo of Dale Miller family provided by his family. From left, son-in-law Thad Larsen, daughter Judy Larsen, Dale Miller and wife, Gretchen Miller