Leader Publishing Company lay to rest one of our employees today. Dennis Miller was more than a co-worker, he was our friend. He almost always had a smile upon his face. If he wasn’t smiling it was because he was contemplating something. He was a fixer.
If we needed a plumber, we called Dennis first. If we needed computer help, we called Dennis. If we needed an electrician, we called Dennis. Although Nancy, the owner of LPC, frowned upon this practice. She was afraid he would either (a) electrocute himself or (b) burn the building down. But she often gave in and let him handle the minor jobs.
Dennis not only helped us at work but oftentimes would come to our houses to help with minor repairs. He enjoyed solving the problem.
When I first started at LPC, 17 years ago, I saw Dennis as a printing specialist. He ran all the smaller printing presses and he had an eye for perfection. I found out later that he had not been at LPC much longer than I had but he was a seasoned professional.
Later down the road, he became Production Manager, a title he hesitated at first to take but one, I believe, he became proud of. When we started using color photos in The Salem Leader and The Salem Democrat, his eye for detail became evident. He insisted on producing a product that he was proud of. A product we all could be proud of.
At one time Dennis owned and flew his own airplane. I loved hearing stories of how he and his wife, Carol, would fly to Pigeon Forge just to eat dinner. I especially loved the story of him flying our then production manager, Walter, to pick up a piece of equipment. I got the feeling from hearing Dennis laugh during the tale that Walter was opposed to flight turbulence and possibly never flew again after that experience.
Dennis and Carol loved to fish and would often take a week’s vacation to travel to see family, camp and fish. He always came back with stories of their adventures. I also helped contribute to his fish obsession by sharing with him the Shoals newspaper during their annual catfish festival. We enjoyed seeing the picture of the festival queen kissing a giant catfish.
As co-workers, we share a lot, including the loss of loved ones, having children and in Dennis and Carol’s case the adopting of a cat. They already had one cat in their lives when they decided he needed a companion, so Lady Di joined their family. They were giddy with excitement over her, even bringing her in to the office for all to see. Dennis told many funny stories of her adjusting to her new home.
When Dennis started not acting like himself, co-workers rallied around him and encouraged him to go to a doctor. When he finally found out his diagnosis of ALS, we along with him and Carol were stunned. Why is it that such an active person would be handed such a hateful and non-forgiving disease? We don’t know the answers.
But the outpouring of love and support for Dennis was uplifting. A fundraiser was held soon after the diagnosis and the town came out in droves to help. It was a wonderful day spent at the Salem Airport, a place that once was Dennis’ second home.
Now he is pain free and is in heaven fixing things that need fixing. Because that is how I, and many others, will remember him…the fixer upper.
RIP Dennis, it was a pleasure to know you and you will be missed.