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In Memorium

Cowboy turned conservation commissioner

"The Coast has lost another friend of conservation" when Max Miller died Sunday at age 83, said Mark LaSalle, director of the Pascagoula River Audubon Society.

Miller was a commissioner of the Harrison County Soil & Water Conservation District. He died less than three weeks after Conrad Mallette of Vancleave, a commissioner of the Jackson County Soil and Water Conservation District.
"His support of environmental and conservation education was unwavering," LaSalle said of Miller. "His poetry was inspiring. He was a Southern gentleman. He led a very storied life."

His friends and family recall the many layers of Miller's life. He was born in Iowa, graduated from Lyman High School, hitchhiked across the country and was a Mennonite cowboy who transported cattle overseas during World War II. He met his wife, Mary, at Purdue University in Indiana and they married in Pennsylvania before he said, "We've got to go back to Mississippi."

"We both worked at the post office," Mary said, and on the farm. "Whatever we did, we did together. He was just a precious person to me." They raised six children, all of whom are in Gulfport for their father's funeral, and have 11 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Miller served as a commissioner for the Harrison County SWCD for 34 years. "This is a non-paying job," said District Clerk Beth D'Aquilla, and they counted on him to participate in every program.

His funeral will be today, the same day the Conservation District meets. The August meeting is canceled in honor of Miller's dedicated service and to allow the staff to attend the funeral.

Dan Longino, field technician for the agency, said, "I thought he'd outlast everybody." Max and Mary joined the Mississippi Gulf Coast Running Club and were seen running and later walking the roads around Lyman. One of his favorite things, said Longino, was working in the garden in front of his house, where he could wave to those driving by. He was an organic farmer and also one of the first electric fence farmers in the county.

"He was my neighbor," said Mozart Dedeaux, education coordinator for Pascagoula River Audubon Center. "He's been organic gardening 40 years. I learned so much from him," about mulching, organic fertilizers and everything he knows about growing strawberries. "I'm going to miss him for sure. I'll never forget him."

A butterfly did flutter by and lit upon a flower.
He sucked the nectar with his projector and now he has flower power.
- Max Miller