Thurman's Story

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Thurman "T.I." Miller, 97, of Maplefork Road, near Bradley, passed away November 11, 2017, Veteran's Day.
He was born November 26, 1919. A native of Otsego, in Wyoming County, he lived for almost fifty years in the community of Helen. He joined the Marine Corps in 1939 and was decorated for his service on Guadalcanal and in other South Pacific battles. In the final year of World War II he taught at the prestigious Officers' Candidate Academy at Camp Lejeune. Although best remembered as a gunny sergeant, he left the Corps qualified as First Sergeant. In later years he served as President of the West Virginia Chapter of the storied First Marine Division.
After the war he began a four-decade career in the coal mining industry, becoming a master electrician and mechanic, and served as an officer in the United Mine Workers of America union. In the 1950's he attended Coyne Electrical School in Chicago. Always an early adopter of new technology, he would obtain blueprints for new mining machinery and study them well before the equipment was installed, and continued that curiosity throughout his life, teaching himself to use a computer and e-mail as soon as they were available. Despite hard duty in the war and a grueling mining career, he was always optimistic, kind, and very funny. He was active on social media until just a few days before he died, and had friends all over the world. He was collecting material for a sixth book when he fell ill the final time.
After his retirement from mining in 1980 he stayed active, becoming a fine wood craftsman. Many of his clocks, tables, and other pieces will be enjoyed by friends and family for years to come. Despite his illness, just a few days before he died he insisted on going to his workshop, and had many projects in mind or partially complete.
He knew few strangersfrom the kids down the block who needed their bike fixed to friends from church to ailing relatives who needed a reassuring voice, he was there for them. He was a gospel singer in his youth with the Otsego Quartet and a deacon and Sunday School teacher for many years, but never signed the membership rolls at any church he attended, believing he had something to learn from every different approach to his Christian faith. He most recently attended Little Valley Baptist Church, even teaching Sunday School occasionally well into 2016.
He was a frequent contributor of letters to the editor and opinion pieces to the Beckley newspaper and others, and found a third career late in life as a prize-winning author, beginning in 2001. He published five books, including the Book of the Month Club selection Earned in Blood and most recently Miner: A Life Underground. His writing career took him to New York City, Eglen Air Force Base in Florida, and many other places. He remained in contact with many of his Marine Corps friends and with every branch of his large extended family and included many of their memories in writing about his life and times. He was interviewed extensively by the World War II Museum in New Orleans and those recordings became part of the background for the HBO miniseries The Pacific.
Miller's extensive archives, which include thousands of photos, family documents going back to the 1920's, and a huge amount of military research, have been donated to the West Virginia and Regional History Center at WVU.
He was preceded in death by his parents and all of his numerous brothers and sisters, as well as his beloved wife of sixty-four years, Recie.
Left to cherish his memory are his son Gilbert (Joan) and granddaughters Heather (Randy) and Angela; daughter Gloria Castle and husband Ralph, whom T.I. considered another son, and grandson Jeff (Cortney) and granddaughter Jackie (Keith); son David (Margot) and granddaughter Molly and grandson Andrew; and Stevie Williams (Harry) of Helen, who was always as close as a daughter to T.I. He was blessed with six great-grandchildren and five great-great grandchildren.
Mr. Miller's family would like to thank Dr. William Boyd and the entire staff of the Beckley Veterans' Hospital for their tender care in both extending his quality of life through rehab and seeing him through its final stages. In addition, the nurses and CNA staff of the Hospice of Southern West Virginia were all caring and of great help. He grew especially close to caregivers Tammy, Connie and Debbie, and friend and companion Cheyenne.
Mr. Miller will be laid to rest at Blue Ridge Memorial Gardens in Prosperity, alongside his beloved Recie. Friends may call Tuesday, November 14, from 6 to 8 pm, and final services will be held there on Wednesday at 1 pm. David Brooks and Junior Plumley will preside.
In lieu of flowers, donations are suggested to Hospice.
Published on November 13, 2017
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