In Memorium: Joe Miller

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The Meditation Circle of Charleston is a small and fluid Sangha, with lots of people coming and going and some staying for a long while. We would like to note the passing of a long-time member, Joe Miller, who for many years graced us with his presence.  Joe died Nov. 16, 2015 at the age of 67 of kidney cancer at Hospice of Kanawha Valley.

He was a sweet and gracious man. As the program for his memorial service noted, Joe was “a polymath and Renaissance man”:

“He was a psychometrist, a vocational rehabilitation counselor, a mobility teacher of the blind, a lawyer, a field biologist, executive secretary of the North American Mycological Association, a fiction writer, a web developer and an actor. His many hobbies and avocational pursuits included astronomy, photography, woodworking, singing and performing in a barbershop chorus and doo-wop quartet…”

(At his memorial service, his fellows from Uncle Ernie’s Boys serenaded us with a wonderfully layered and unconventional Recessional of “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.”)

I first came to know Joe better when in 2011 I staged a portion of “Saint Stephen’s Dream: A Space Opera,” for FestivALL Charleston in the self-same room where the Meditation Circle meets each Tuesday at 6 p.m. In this eco-sci-fi tale, a portion of humankind flees a sick Earth into orbit, living in thousands of ships and escaping the torment of losing their home by creating holographic dream worlds. In one of the great ships, the height of Venetian society is recreated, ruled over by a stern and authoritarian doge.

The story revolves around the battles a group of rebels have with the Doge and his men, and their desire to return to Earth. Each night of the four-night run of the show, a different person portrayed the Doge (Alex Bannerman, Larry Groce,  Gary Brown and Joe Miller). They all wore the same magnificent, award-winning and historically accurate doge costume made available to us by Magic Makers in Huntington. Each of the Doge actors bought a different quality to the role. I played one of the rebels, but when it came time for Joe’s turn as Doge I was struck by his imperious but dignified portrayal. Joe would have made a great Doge in real life. I could see why people followed him, he played the role so well.

He was many things to many people and much beloved. He is deeply missed. Fare thee well, friend.

~ Douglas Imbrogno

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Doge Miller, right before entering the set of “Saint Stephen’s Dream: A Space Opera,” in 2011 at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation.