Jerry Franklin Miller, 78, of Cave Junction passed away on March 10, 2016 surrounded by his loved ones. He was diagnosed with Lymphoma in 2007, but it barely slowed him down until the last few days.
He was born on January 26, 1938, the middle son of Darrel and Lovejoy Miller in Alvin, Texas. His family owned a dairy farm and he grew up playing sports and enjoying hunting, fishing and the life of a country boy. He worked at the local strawberry farm and also delivered papers for the Houston Chronicle.
After graduating from Alvin High School, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and proudly served his country from 1956 to 1960 as a machinery repairman aboard ships stationed in San Diego and Japan.
When he was in the 5th grade at Alvin Elementary, he was partnered with Bertha Ann Schock for the spring May Fete. A friendship developed that lasted through the years and on May 31, 1957 they were married in the Alvin Lutheran Church.
Jerry & Bertha stayed in San Diego after his discharge from the Navy where he worked in the manufacturing field. In 1962, they moved to Hayward, California and Jerry worked for MidCoast Plastics as a production foreman until 1971.
Son, Darrel Lee, was born in 1962 and daughter, Nancy Kathryn was born in 1964. It was during this time in Hayward that the family became friends with Charles & Marilyn Taylor as both families belonged to St. Timothy Lutheran Church. So when the Taylor family moved their sausage business to Cave Junction in 1969, the Millers followed in 1971 and Jerry went to work for Taylor’s Sausage.
In 1972, Jerry and Bertha opened a small deli featuring Taylor’s sausage and sandwiches in Cave Junction. In 1975, Miller’s Shady Oaks Pizza Deli was constructed and opened through Jerry’s planning and design. In 1980 the Millers expanded their business by adding a pizza parlor in Brookings-Harbor. Jerry thought that brewing beer would be a unique addition to the pizza business and in 1990, a brewery was added to the building in Cave Junction (being the 8th brewery in Oregon and the 125th brewery in the United States). In 1994 as a new restaurant was opened in Grants Pass the name was changed to Wild River Brewing and Pizza Company. The Grants Pass Pub was added in 1996 and in 2006 a restaurant was built in Medford.
Jerry enjoyed living in the Illinois Valley and was active in the community. His faith was important to him as he helped build Good Shepherd Lutheran Church and served on many congregational positions. He served on the Chamber of Commerce and was a Josephine County school board member for 12 years.
Jerry was an avid fisherman and would bring back enough fish from his trips to British Columbia to host fund raisers for local charities. Among his many hobbies were carving realistic duck decoys, woodworking, restoring vintage cars and hop farming. His travels took him to all 7 continents. Bungee jumping in New Zealand, crossing the Drake Passage to Antartica, and viewing wild animals on an African safari were among his favorite treks. He also enjoyed golfing and ballroom dancing.
Jerry is survived by his loving wife of 58 years, Bertha, his son Darrel (Becky) Miller, and Nancy (Daniel) Leedy. Jerry was a proud grandfather to Kelsie (Brandon) Buckhorn, Cody (Crystle) Miller, Kara Miller, Scott Leedy, Clay Leedy, and great grandfather to Baylie, Braxton and Niyah. He is also survived by his brothers, Emmit (JoAnn) Miller of Alvin, Texas and Harold (Colleen) Miller of San Angelo, Texas and the Wild River Family of employees and friends.
A memorial service will be held at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Cave Junction on Saturday, March 26th at 2 pm. A reception will follow at the Cave Junction Wild River. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the OHSU Foundation, Mail Stop 45, Box 4000, Portland, OR 97208-9852. If giving by check, in the memo line, please write “In memory of Jerry Miller supporting lymphoma research”. To give online, go to www.OnwardOHSU.org. Or if you choose, the Boys & Girls Club, 203 SE 9th St., Grants Pass, OR 97526, or Josephine County CASA, 322 NW “F” St., Grants Pass, OR 97526.