Just who is this Sue Miller?
So you may have heard of me, but do you know the whole story? I grew up, the middle of three daughters, in a small town of about 5000 residents in a very ethnically diverse community.
My dad was a major employer – the third generation in our family to work at a local factory, starting at the bottom and working there for nearly 40 years, managing to get to the top of the ladder through his hard work and community involvement – including Rotary, United Way, an elder in the church, Board of the Hospital.
My mother was a “stay-at-home mom” – but she rarely stayed home as she was an extraordinary volunteer for the Red Cross, United Way, church, woman’s club, and school activities.
In college, I was a math major, which I thought was a big mistake as what kind of profession could I find in that field? But timing is everything. The computer industry was in its infancy, and I had an opportunity to get in at the ground level! For over 15 years I was a computer programmer, and diligence and hard work was my key to success.
In 1980, as a divorced single mother with two young boys, I met Jay Miller on a weekend trip to the Florida Keys, a place I loved because of the fishing, diving, snorkeling, and spectacular marine environment.
We married a year later and moved to Islamorada full time, to the home on Lower Matecumbe where I still live. Jay and I opened a small real estate office on Upper Matecumbe and loved selling what we had learned to love – special properties in a special community that special people could call home.
In the 1980s Jay became president of the Islamorada Chamber of Commerce (a few years after Henry Rosenthal had brought the organization to life). As a former computer programmer, I helped by writing programs for the Islamorada Chamber.
We were always involved with our kids’ school and sports activities and loved the way this community had so many leaders, teachers, coaches, fishermen, and school bus drivers ... always ready and willing to mentor our boys and so many other kids.
Jay loved being involved in our community! He found it rewarding to actually see the difference you can make in a small-town environment. He was the founding president of the hugely successful Lower Matecumbe Key Association (LMKA) in 1987 and eventually talked me into writing their newsletters which I did for many, many years, taking over when Luci Niebler Spare left town. Working together, our island residents had a louder voice for our island and together we kept informed and found ways to make our island better.
We stayed busy. Jay was on the electric company board of directors for almost two decades, and served on the Monroe County Zoning Board and Land Authority before Islamorada incorporated. I served on the board of Mariners Hospital long before the new hospital was built. I was a regular volunteer with the kids’ school and Little League activities. And regularly volunteered to serve on committees to help at both the County and Village. I currently serve on the Islamorada Achievable Housing Committee and the Land Acquisition Advisory Committee.
Family – that is what has always meant the most to me. I am so proud of my family! My sons are incredibly special. I often wonder how that ever happened. They have accomplished so much because of their dedication, energy, ambition, and wisdom. Best of all, they are the best parents and husbands ever! I bubble over with pride.
After Jay was diagnosed with cancer in 1997, we decided to make the most of whatever time was left. We retired. And we were so incredibly fortunate that there were so many good years when we were able to travel throughout the country in our RV and see places and people that brightened every day.
My life changed dramatically in February of 2016 when Jay gave up the battle following his 5th surgery since 1997.
Gil Gray entered my life a bit later – a 1966 Allegheny College classmate I met up with as a result of our 50th college reunion. A farm boy from Pennsylvania who with his wife raised 10 kids, was an inspiration to me in so many ways.
What a joy it was to regularly visit the Gray family with all those kids, spouses, grandkids, great grandkids that had family get-togethers for long weekends – 50 immediate family members, loving on each other, all spending time together under one roof - a sight to see. We had several wonderful years together as I struggled to figure out what would be next. I cared for him as he was gravely ill but quite a companion as he continually grew, learned, and studied until his last breath in February 2020.
Gil always had genuine hope that there would be one more medical breakthrough that would allow him to live forever. He just needed more time. But that was not to be.
I am left with my remaining passion: Islamorada…. and ensuring the community where I live is the best it can be for current residents and small businesses but also that we create sustainability so that Islamorada remains a wonderful place for our children and grandchildren to live or visit.
I want to help ensure that our council heads down a path toward success that will make us all proud that we live in Islamorada. I know I can make a difference. With your support, I will.