A ‘dad-blame’ life lived to the fullest

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 6, 2017

Learning of the death of Wesley “Wes” Miller this week has placed my mind in a reflective mood.

Wes came to work at the Salisbury Post as a photographer in May 1989.  He was a young man ready to face the world and his career path in photography.

Wes had worked for four years at the Monroe Enquirer-Journal in Monroe. While there, he won a first-place award in feature photography in the N.C. Press Association Editorial Contest.

When he began working at the Post, he was a spirited man full of energy with four years of experience in newspaper photojournalism. In 1989, photography included using film cameras and processing the film in the chemicals of a darkroom.

Wes, being a native of Spencer and a North Rowan High School graduate, worked a summer internship in our photo department while a student at Randolph Community College in Asheboro. While in college earning an associate degree in applied science in portraiture, he decided that he wanted to switch his field of study to photojournalism.  That required an additional third year of study in Asheboro.

In 1990, he won a second-place in sports photography in the Press Association contest while at the Post. In 1992, he followed his first two awards with another second place, again in sports photography. His winning photo was taken at an East Rowan High baseball game and showed East player Jonathan Featherstone being tagged out in a game against Wiles Central.

His favorite empathic expression in those years was “dad-blamed.” He used that expression when he was amazed in a finding or when others might say “dadgummiit.”  Maybe he got the phrase from Roger Miller’s song “Dad Blame Anything a Man Can’t Quit,” which was about a man who couldn’t stop smoking. That was Wes also. He loved smoking cigarettes. No smoking was allowed in the Post building, so he would have to go outside for his puffs.

On one occasion, Wes became angry about something. His high-spirited nature overruled his calmer thinking and he kicked a heavy metal trash can on his way down the back steps and broke his toe. I think he learned from the broken toe and became a calmer man at work after his “dad-blamed” toe healed.

Raymond “Junior” Austin, the darkroom technician, would rib Wes when he was going out on an assignment by telling him, “Wes, avoid the trash cans on your way out.”

Wes would laugh, “Yeah, sure.”

Wes decided to leave the Post and go back to Randolph Community College to study graphics and design, yet another two-year degree program. He was still searching for what he wanted to do and who he wanted to be.

While in the program, he came by the Post often to say hello and check on how we were doing. He was always fun to be around and would have us laughing at his stories.

I kidded him about his five years in community college having studied three different disciplines: portraiture, photojournalism and graphic design. I told him that with his five years of college, he could have had a master’s degree instead of three associate degrees. We shared a “dad-blamed” laugh about it many times.

After Wes was stricken with a debilitative disease that greatly slowed him down, I somehow lost touch with him. When I would talk with his brother, Steve, I was able to follow how Wes was doing.

“Dad-blame!” He will be missed by those of us who new him.

A family visitation will be held from 2 to 3 p.m. Sunday at Summersett Funeral Home followed by a memorial service at 3 p.m. Sunday at the funeral home with the Rev. D.J. Lura officiating.