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Miller’s life remembered through neighbors’ kind gesture

SALISBURY — Charlie Miller was still climbing mountains in his 70s.

Miller, 74, spent a lot of time with his grandson and son-in-law, with one of their favorite activities being gem hunting. It was shocking to his family when Miller died on Jan. 20 after contracting COVID-19.

He started having trouble breathing and was taken to the emergency room on Jan. 16. He had taken a COVID-19 test two days before his hospitalization and did not have the results. The hospital confirmed he had COVID-19 and started Miller on treatment.

Miller’s daughter, Brenda Whitmore, said he had no underlying or concerning health conditions. He was strong and they fully expected him to come home.

“There was no thought that he wouldn’t come home,” Whitmore said. “It was unbelievable.”

The hospital offered to place him on a ventilator. But Miller had a living will stating he did not want to be intubated. Now, Whitmore said, family members would have been happy to be the subject of loud criticism if it meant he survived.

Even still, hospital staff gave him a low chance of surviving on the ventilator.

Miller was retired from working at Freightliner. He was born in Minneapolis, grew up in Michigan and was an ordained minister.

Whitmore said her father was always checking on people in the neighborhood near U.S. 601 and making sure they were taken care of. He stayed active. He liked to fish and shoot at the range.

When his grandchildren were young, Whitmore said, he would go out in parks and play with them like he was a kid himself. You could usually count on Miller to be wearing a smile.

After learning of the COVID-19 deaths, the Miller family’s neighbors wanted to do something kind. They couldn’t visit because of the pandemic. One neighbor, Glenda Beard, called Miller’s wife, Joyce, saying they wanted to do something.

One weekend ago, that something was about 20 people in front of Joyce’s and Charlie’s house with handwritten messages on hand-cut heart signs. They planted the signs in the yard for viewing.

The family stepped out on the front porch to talk to them from a distance.

“It was just such a sweet moment,” Whitmore said. “It made such a huge difference to my mom to know that, even though COVID can make you feel like you’re really alone, she’s not alone.”

The family brought the signs in so they would not be destroyed by the rain.

The messages expressed condolences, their love for the Millers and let the family know they were there if they need anything. Beard’s message said there weren’t enough words to describe what Charlie and Joyce did for her and her husband.

“It was such a great outpouring, and it just kind reiterates that this is a great neighborhood,” Whitmore said.

More than 70 people in Rowan County have died due to COVID-19 in January, including 10 people last week.

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