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Victor Post
  • 'A farmer at heart,' with a growing legacy

  • It may not have been obvious at first glance that the quiet, unassuming, soft-spoken man who tended the books of his local family business was also a horticultural giant. But the fruit of David Miller’s knowledge and life’s work, by conservative estimate, is now flourishing in more than 200,000 gardens, orchards and backyards nationwide.


     

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  • It may not have been obvious at first glance that the quiet, unassuming, soft-spoken man who tended the books of his local family business was also a horticultural giant. But the fruit of David Miller’s knowledge and life’s work, by conservative estimate, is now flourishing in more than 200,000 gardens, orchards and backyards nationwide.
    On Saturday, May 11, David J. Miller of Victor died — but not before leaving behind a legacy that will continue to grow decades into the future. He was the co-owner of J. E. Miller Nurseries in Canandaigua, a thriving family business birthed by his father, J.E. “Ed” Miller, in 1936. After graduating from Cornell University College of Agriculture, Mr. Miller returned to his home and his roots and never looked back.
    “He and I have been in business together since he got out of college in ’65,” said Mr. Miller’s brother, John. “We purchased the business from my father in the 1970s, and we’ve worked together since we were kids.”
    John described his brother as “a numbers guy.”
    “You could set your watch at 10 a.m. when he’d call his stockbroker. He kept track of all our banking, and payroll and invoices. He did this since the late ’70s, and I handled the marketing part. We had a good partnership, and a good relationship, and it worked.”
    Terri Case, garden store manager at Miller Nurseries, said it has been the ultimate family business, in her opinion: owned and run by family, employing families, and taking care of families through the years.
    “I’m the new kid on the block — I only worked with him for 17 years,” said Case of Mr. Miller. “He was always a gentle man, soft-spoken, a great businessman, good with numbers and with people. People really respected the man. And even though we aren’t related, we’re still family.”
    Canandaigua resident Eileen Kelly has been not only a Miller Nurseries customer for the last 18 years, but also a close friend of both Mr. Miller and his wife, Judy.
    “We started a family tradition between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day of buying plants and shrubs — one for each member of the family — at Miller Nurseries,” said Kelly. “David actually helped us pick out our trees. He is a part of our lives, and he always will be.”
    Kelly remembers picking grapes and apples with Mr. Miller and his wife, and her kids. Always a part of the annual traditions was Miller's miniature schnauzer, Arnie.
    “When I think of Dave, I think of his sparkling eyes, his big smile, and his chuckle — it was infectious,” she said. “He was just a person who loved life, loved the outdoors, loved his wife and loved the sense of family. Dave was a lover of animals, of people, of the beauty that surrounds us.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Shipping and Farm Manager Howard Morgan started working at Miller Nurseries when he was 17 years old. He’s been there ever since.
    “David and John have been the only employers I’ve had,” Morgan said. “I loved working for the man and taking care of the business for him. John and Dave are both like fathers to me. I was one of the fortunate ones who got to know David as a friend and a boss. He loved the nursery — it was his life.”
    Morgan said he believed Mr. Miller “wanted to be a farmer at heart.”
    “He loved his black raspberries, and blueberries, apples, grapes and peaches,” said Morgan. “He was all business, but when he didn’t have to be in the office, he’d go up there with a two-quart basket strapped to his belt and pick raspberries and blueberries.”
    John Miller said his brother had specific plans for the berries he harvested. After picking them, he’d turn some over to a baker in Victor who made black raspberry pies — which he enjoyed as often as possible. The rest were served over ice cream.
    “He was very smart,” said John of his brother. “He had great ethics and values. He will be sorely missed here.”
     
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