Cowboy turned conservation commissioner
By MARY PEREZ
"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
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