Nutrition site manager decides 88 is the right age to retire
By Kathy Chaffin
Lib Miller used to tell people her three children had retired, but that she was too young.
At 88, Miller decided recently that it was finally time.
Last Monday, however, on her final day as a site manager for the Rowan County Senior Services nutrition program, she had this to say: “I may go back to work and retire again.”
Her youngest daughter, Gale Cansler, who was there for her mother’s last day, responded, “Do you think it would surprise me? Absolutely not.”
After retiring from Cone Mills in 1982, Miller ó who describes herself as “a Rowan County girl” ó went to work for the nutrition program, staying for 25 years. She started out at the East Spencer site, working there 10 years before transferring to the Mt. Tabor site, where she worked for another 10 years.
Miller spent the last five years as site manager for the Spencer nutrition program at Calvary Lutheran Church on Fifth Street, working four hours a day five days a week. “I’ve been doing this for 25 years,” she said, “and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.
“I love people, and I feel like I was helping them.”
Her daughter, speaking on behalf of the whole family, said, “We’re very proud of her.”
As site manager, Miller arrived at the church by 9:30 each morning so she could prepare the fellowship hall for the 26 to 28 seniors who participate regularly. Last Monday, she had decorated the tables with bright pink floral napkins and flower vases.
A vase filled with several varieties of daffodils she grew at her Old Concord Road home decorated the desk where she accepts money (whatever seniors want to give) for meals.
Miller said there wasn’t anything special planned for her last day. “They already gave me a party and a beautiful retirement card stuffed with money,” she said.
The gifts, however, continued as the regulars began arriving. Bob Coble, who showed up first, walked in carrying an Easter lily and a bag with three plates of cheesecake ó one for Miller, one for assistant site manager Mattie Skeeter and one for Cansler.
It seems Coble, who lives on High Rock Lake, had been bringing Miller food regularly. He fed her, she said, and then she turned around and fed him.
Sometimes, he and Bill Foley even brought her blackberry wine cake, her daughter said.
How did Bob feel about her leaving?
“It breaks my heart,” he said.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” she said. “She’s leaving me.”
Miller tried to reassure her. “There’s nobody that can’t be replaced,” she said.
“I’ll be calling a lot,” Skeeter said. “You didn’t know you had a black daughter.”
“Well Sis, I’m glad to meet you,” Cansler said.
Coble said his favorite memory of Miller was the look on her face when she gets a blackberry wine cake. He would get a chance to see it again minutes later when Foley walked in carrying one.
“You know what this is?” he asked as he set it down.
Miller removed the foil to check inside and quickly covered it back up. “That’s one of the blackberry wine cakes,” she said, smiling.
The Rev. Gene Sides, who holds devotions for the nutrition site participants once a month, and his wife, Emily, arrived soon afterward with a gift basket filled with all kinds of goodies. There were little flower pots, gardening gloves, popcorn, candy …
“And there’s hand lotion for when you get done in the yard,” Emily Sides said.
Working in her yard is one way Miller plans to spend her retirement. She has more than 100 azaleas and hundreds and hundreds of daffodils.
“The biggest hobby I’ve got is my yard,” she said. “I’m an outdoor person.”
Miller also enjoys watching the Atlanta Braves and UNC Tar Heels play on television. She also does needlepoint, ceramics and paintings.
She hopes to spend part of her newfound time traveling.
“I went to the Bahamas last year and truly enjoyed it,” she said. “I had never been out on a ship.”
Her daughter chimed in: “She signed up for parasailing. I almost had a fit.”
Did she go? “No, it was too windy that day,” Cansler said, “and they didn’t take anyone up. Thank goodness.”
Miller has organized several chartered bus trips for the participants of the Spencer nutrition site to such locations as Asheville, Smith Mountain Lake, Mount Airy and Fort Bragg.
Though her husband, Carl Miller Sr., died almost seven years ago, she has no interest in a boyfriend. “No ma’am,” she said when asked about it. “I’m having too much fun by myself.”
Miller goes to the Y every morning at 6 with daughter Gale and exercises for an hour. “I wish every senior citizen could go to the Y,” she said.
At 88, she still has all of her own teeth and doesn’t wear glasses or take any prescriptions or over-the-counter drugs ó not even aspirin.
“What do I need an aspirin for?” Miller asked.
To what does she attribute her good health?
“I was asked that twice over the weekend,” she said. “I guess clean living and hard work.”
Her daughter added: “We’re so proud of Mom. She has just been blessed with good health.”
Miller said she has had one knee replacement and continuing problems with her feet. “But I don’t complain,” she said. “It doesn’t do any good to complain, and people don’t want to hear your ailments.
“I just listen to other people’s ailments, and I’m sorry for them.”
Ruth Elium of East Spencer said she has always enjoyed Miller’s friendliness and smile. “And she always has excellent programs for us,” she said.
Her sister, Betty Culp, said of Miller: “They didn’t make but one.”
A little later, she added, “Lib takes care of us literally. We’re family, and we love it.”
She might be loved by all the participants, but Culp said Miller had some strict rules such as not allowing them to save seats for their friends.
Miller joined in, saying they’re not allowed to get up and get anything to drink during the 30-minute programs preceding each meal.
When it was almost time for last Monday’s guest speaker to begin, Miller got serious. “Everybody get in your seats,” she said loudly. “See how strong my voice is,” she added with a mischievous smile.
Miller assured her friends that she’d be back to visit. “You won’t be rid of me,” she said, adding that it might be a month or two. “And I’ve told all of the participants not to say ‘Lib didn’t do it that way,’ ” she said, “because there’s nobody that can’t be replaced.”
Even before she had retired, Lib Miller said she was asked to deliver meals to homebound seniors and disabled residents as a volunteer for Rowan County Meals on Wheels.
“And I said yes,” she said. “I can’t say no. That’s what life is all about, is doing for other people.”
Her advice for other senior citizens?
“Don’t ever slow down,” she responded. “Keep going.”
Contact Kathy Chaffin at 704-797-4249 or firstname.lastname@example.org.