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Published: Wednesday, 4/6/2005

Bedding-plant specialist ran market with his wife

Donald J. Miller, 79, who for nearly 30 years sold produce and bedding plants from a market he ran with his wife, Marge, died yesterday at his home in Lucas County's Harding Township from complications of congestive heart failure and diabetes.

Plants were Mr. Miller's professional life. For many years, he worked for Bettinger Farms and specialized in bedding plants.

In the late 1960s he decided to start a retail vegetable and garden market and bedding-plant business at the family property at Central Avenue and Raab Road in Lucas County's Richfield Township - in addition to his 60-hour work week at Bettinger's, his daughter Sandra Pifer said.

"It was a little country setting, where my mom and the children all worked," she said.

The Millers had a greenhouse, and he started seedlings in February and March, daughter Carol Gordon said. Grand opening was Mother's Day weekend, with the sale of flowers and tomato plants for transplanting at home. He liked to create hanging baskets made up of ivy, geraniums, impatiens, begonias, and other suitable plants.

After spring planting season, the Millers sold produce acquired from the Toledo Farmers' Market and area farmers as well as that grown himself. He handled the buying and the growing. His wife worked the cash register. Everyone, including the eight children, helped transplant seedlings so they'd be ready to sell.

"It took a lot of dedication and loyalty. They loved it so much. It became their life," daughter Carol said. "He had a very strong work ethic, and he strived to get ahead. He had a lot of pride in his accomplishments."

The Millers sold the market about 10 years ago.

Mr. Miller grew up on a farm in western Lucas County and was a graduate of Metamora High School.

He liked to set goals, then pursue them. "He inspired us to be achievers," daughter Carol said. "He never gave up. He was always young at heart."

Mr. Miller took flying lessons at Toledo Express Airport and, for about 15 years, flew a single-engine plane. Son-in-law Dave Pifer, inspired by Mr. Miller's enthusiasm, became a pilot with the Ohio Air National Guard's 180th Fighter Wing.

Mr. Miller learned to speak Spanish from the migrant farm workers he knew, and he practiced whenever he could. He taught himself the accordion, the harmonica, and the guitar and played such old-time songs as "Oh! Susannah."

"In his mind, he could hear the music, then he could feel the notes," daughter Carol said.

Mr. Miller in the 1960s was a director of the former Swanton Savings & Loan.

He and his wife married April 17, 1948. She died Nov. 25, 1996.

Surviving are his sons, Alan, Gary, and Terry; daughters, Sandra Pifer, Janice Ray, Susan Clendenin, Bonnie Kashmer, and Carol Gordon; brothers, Jim and Bill; sisters, Elizabeth A. Myers and Betty Mentink; 23 grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.

The body will be in Weigel Funeral Home, Swanton, after 2 p.m. tomorrow, with a Scripture service and a recitation of the Rosary at 7 p.m. Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. Friday in Holy Trinity Church at Marygrove, Raab Road.

The family suggests tributes to Holy Trinity Church.



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