Robert G. Miller, a distinguished World War II veteran, writer, photographer, outdoorsman, history buff, and lifelong resident of the Columbia area, died on Wednesday, July 18, at St. Anne’s Retirement Community, his daughter Cynthia at his side. He was 96 years of age.
Born in Columbia, son of the late Margaret Miller Crumbling, Bob’s life spanned nearly a century of devoted service to country and community.
A 1938 graduate of Holy Trinity High School and a longtime member of St. Peter Roman Catholic Church, Columbia, he worked briefly for Lancaster Newspapers before heading off to the war. Bob served in WWII from 1942-1945 as a photographer and lab technician with the 27th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron, stationed with the US Army Air Force in England. The squadron was part of the 7th Photographic Reconnaissance Group, which was awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation for its photo sorties over the Normandy coast, described as a “a crucial part of the preparation for the land invasion that began on 6 June 1944 [D-Day].”
After the war, Bob returned to Columbia, met and married Florence Jelley, the love of his life; they were married for 63 years before her death in 2009. After successfully pursuing Florence, Bob pursued consecutive 20-year careers as a writer and photographer, first with Lancaster Newspapers and then with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
From 1947 to 1967, he worked as a reporter, County Editor, and photographer for the Intelligencer Journal. He also wrote a regular boating column for the sports pages, a natural given his familiarity with, and love for, the Susquehanna River (he built cottages on islands in that stream). From 1967 until his retirement in 1987, he was an information specialist with the State Department of Forests and Waters, which morphed into the Department of Environmental Resources in the early 1970's. He worked under the renowned Secretary Maurice Goddard.
In addition, Bob wrote and took photos for The Columbia News and various magazines, including Pennsylvania Magazine, Pennsylvania Forests, Pennsylvania Angler, and Outboard. He was a member of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association.
In 1975 one of his photographs, showing the hands of a child and an adult planting a seedling, received a national award from the Keep America Beautiful program at an awards ceremony in Washington, DC.
Bob is probably best known in town for everything he and Florence did after he retired to nurture and sustain the Columbia Historic Preservation Society and its Museum on South Second Street. The Museum is housed in a former church; the manse next door, also part of the historic society complex, was named the Miller Manse in their honor in 2013. Into his late 80's and early 90's, Bob remained active in the Historical Society and served as its Recording Secretary and institutional memory.
In honor of their community work, the Millers were chosen in 1997 to serve as Grand Marshals of the Columbia Mardi Gras parade. In 2015, in recognition of his service to his country, Bob was the Grand Marshal of the Columbia Memorial Day parade and proudly wore his military jacket.
He is survived by his daughter Cynthia Miller Forster (Jeff) of New Milford, NJ; loving granddaughters Meredith L. Forster of Arlington, VA and Hilary Forster Bruck (Jonathan) of Alexandria, VA; brother Donald Crumbling (Lois) of York; and several nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by a brother, Richard Crumbling.
The Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at St. Peter Roman Catholic Church, 121 S. Second St., Columbia, on Monday, July 23, 2018 at 11:00 A.M. with Rev. Anthony Swamy, MSFS, as Celebrant. Final Commendation and Farewell in Silver Spring Cemetery, with Full Military Honors. Friends may call at the church from 10:00 A.M. to 11:00 A.M. In lieu of flowers, please make donations in Bob’s memory to: the Columbia Historic Preservation Society, PO Box 578, Columbia, PA 17512; or to: Susquehanna Heritage at www.susquehannaheritage.org. Arrangements by the Workman Funeral Homes Inc., Columbia/Mountville. To send an online condolence, visit the condolence page.