Donald Gene “Coach” Miller
Don Miller, more commonly referred to as “Coach Miller,” was born in his parents’ home in Thomas County, Kansas, on February 29, 1936. Don was the youngest of six children. Don’s parents, O.J. and Lottie Miller, moved to Burlington, Colorado, where his dad was a tenant farmer. Don grew up in a sod house on the farm.
Don’s upbringing on the farm formed the lens through which he viewed the world. He learned an enduring appreciation for hard work and a great respect for anything earned through that work. Don was the first person in his family to attend college. He earned a scholarship to Western State and was a member of the football team from 1954-1958, earning all-conference honors as a senior. His time in college was also the period during which he suffered his largest number of broken noses and lost teeth, in no small part due to his position as a running back in the era before facemasks. Don Miller was nothing if not tough.
Upon graduation, Don served in the 82nd Airborne from 1959 to 1961. Upon his discharge, he used the money he earned in the Service to pay his remaining college loans, which left him with exactly $12. Don used that last $12 to buy a tank of gas and a case of beer, and then pondered his future with his friend Max Wheeler over a game of pool.
Don moved back to his alma mater in 1961 and began his coaching career. In 1962, Don accepted his first head coaching job for the Wiggins High School football team. Don married Karen Franklin, also of Burlington, on June 9, 1963. They lived in a trailer that was parked next to the practice field.
In 1964, they moved that trailer to Glenwood Springs, where Don began a 31-year career coaching football, track and wrestling for the Demons. At some point along the way, Don became “Coach Miller.” He embraced his players and the coaching community. These were his life-long friends. Don had particular respect for his mentors. Men on that list include Lloyd Gaskill, Nick Stubler and Tracy Borah, among others.
Participate in The Longevity Project
The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.
Don passed away in his home on July 6, 2015. He is survived by his sister, Velma Jacobs; his daughter, Kelly Alvarez; his two sons, Jon and Jason Miller; his daughter-in-law Jennifer Miller and eight grandchildren: Tristan and Finn Miller of Glenwood Springs, Colorado; Katie and Isa Alvarez of Burlington, Colorado; and Ashley, Jack, Nick and Paige Miller of Centennial, Colorado.
A memorial service will be held at 10:30 Sunday morning, July 12, at the Glenwood Springs High School football field. Coach Miller will then be laid to rest at Rosebud Cemetery, with a reception to follow at G.S.H.S.
In lieu of flowers, a scholarship will be set up to honor Coach Miller, and will benefit student-athletes that embody the spirit that Coach Miller sought to instill in his players — to try their best, hold their heads high, and never quit. Please contact Sandy DeCrow at 970-384-5501 or firstname.lastname@example.org to make a donation.
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