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Published: 8/21/2003

Stubborn independence boosts Wauseon man, 100

BY JANE SCHMUCKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

WAUSEON - At age 100, Cecill Miller lives alone, does his laundry, and bakes cookies - from scratch, of course.

“How else would you do it?” asked Mr. Miller, who celebrated his birthday Sunday.

Such is the stubborn independence that his daughter Margaret Zimmerman said has been his key to a long life.

Mr. Miller spells it out in the words of a doctor who once ordered a procedure that Mr. Miller refused. “He's an ornery old cuss, ain't he,” Mr. Miller remembers the doctor saying.

He was born in Paulding County, the oldest child of Marion Miller, a railroad worker, and his wife, Edith. He walked 1.75 miles each way to a one-room school, where he wrote his lessons on a slate with a piece of chalk. He does not recall having paper or a pencil.

His family moved often. One such move was made after his father got a job in a tile mill that paid $1.25 per day, up from the 75 cents a day he was paid on the railroad. When the family moved from Paulding County to Fulton County, everything they owned fit in a horse-drawn wagon. They tied their cow to the back.

Thinking back to those days, Mr. Miller said one of the greatest changes in his lifetime has been the proliferation of paved roads in rural areas.

Eventually, his parents settled on a farm just over the Michigan line near Ottawa Lake where they expanded their dairy herd to 24 animals. When Mr. Miller left home at age 21, the milking was all done by hand and the hogs were butchered on the farm.

He found employment in grocery stores. In one job, he delivered grocery orders to Sylvania-area homes with a Model T truck. If no one was at home, he would carry the food right into the kitchen. It was a given that the doors would be unlocked.

He was paid $29 a week, working from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday, when he married the former Alma Bauer in 1926. He had been paying $7 a week for a shared room, his laundry, breakfast, and supper. But after their marriage ceremony and a one-night honeymoon in Niagara Falls, the Millers moved in with the bride's parents.

When a Toledo grocery came up for sale, Mr. Miller didn't have the $500 necessary to take over the business. But his wife's grandfather loaned him the money and the couple moved into the living quarters attached to the store.

In those days customers often shopped every day, buying on credit and paying at the end of the week. And when the Depression struck, it was the credit Mr. Miller extended that did him in. He was forced to close the store and took a job delivering milk, in glass bottles, to groceries and restaurants.

By the mid 1930s the family, which by then included daughters Margaret and Marilyn, returned to Fulton County and lived on an 80-acre farm east of Delta. In 1940, they moved a few more miles west to an 80-acre farm in Pike Township.

His six dairy cows, mess of pigs, hen house full of chickens, and fields of corn, wheat, oats, and hay weren't enough to support a family and pay off a farm, however. He was a machine operator in a rubber plant in Morenci, a truck driver for a dairy in Delta, and a school bus driver for Pike School.

His wife died of a heart attack in 1951 and after about five years, he married again. His second wife, Isabelle, was a cook at the Fulton County Jail who had been widowed twice. She died in 1988.



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