VACAVILLE — Writing a eulogy for Duncan Miller, the Rev. Larry Vilardo of Rockville Presbyterian Fellowship said, was one of the easiest tasks he has had.
Miller, a much-loved aviator and Gordon Valley resident, was lauded at his Monday memorial service as a man who always did all he could to help others.
Such as the time he stayed up all night in temperatures that dropped to 25 degrees to ensure one of the slabs for the Gordon Valley fire house was laid properly. It was one of the many things Miller did as a volunteer for that fire district during the 35 years he served as a firefighter, captain and eventually assistant fire chief.
“He also kept that fire house very clean,” Don Gordon said. “That floor was so clean you could see your reflection in it.”
There was also the time when Miller approached Sunnyside Dairy and organized volunteers who picked up milk weekly, which they first delivered to a local church and then later to Mission Solano, a program that continues today.
Miller was also described as the friendliest person that longtime family friend Jim Edwards ever met.
“I never saw Duncan meet a person without trying to make a friend of that person,” Edwards said.
That usually led to an invitation from Miller to visit his aircraft hangar at the Nut Tree Airport, then an offer of a soda and pastries that Miller and his friends kept around while they worked to restore aircraft, and sometimes an invitation for a flight in his yellow Cub aircraft.
“A lot of people learned to fly in that Cub,” Edwards said.
Miller, 93, a living landmark at the Nut Tree Airport where he and friends restored vintage military aircraft, died Aug. 11 at the Laurel Creek Care Center in Fairfield.
More than 200 people filled the Jimmy Doolittle Center for Patriotism hangar at the Nut Tree Airport, only a couple of hundred yards from Miller’s own hangar. Several of the aircraft that Miller worked on were parked outside the hangar, and a host of friends gathered to pay their final respects to Miller.
“I thank each and every one of you for your care and love,” said Jenny Locklin, one of Miller’s children, to those gathered at the memorial.
Born on July 21, 1921, in Omaha, Nebraska, Miller got involved in aviation before World War II through the Civil Pilot Training program. He came to California in 1940 to help build B-24 bombers in San Diego and then became a civilian flight instructor, training airmen to fly the aircraft.
Miller was called to active duty in 1944 and ferried aircraft from the factories to units across the continental United States and to Alaska. He ended the war at the Fairfield-Suisun Army Airfield as a C-54 pilot, where he flew missions to the Far East.
After the war, Miller and a couple of fellow fliers formed the airline Air Transport Associates, which stayed in business until the 1950s. They then formed the contracting company US Eagle, which is still in business. The company was sold in 1984.
He married Dorothy May Nickerson in February 1946, who friends remembered fondly. She died in 1983. Miller is survived by six children: Dan, Scott, Randy, Jennifer, Becky and Karen; as well as four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Miller’s retirement years saw his community and church involvement blossom. His work earned him the unofficial titles of the Mayor of Gordon Valley and Mayor of Nut Tree Airport.
Miller’s aviation friends wrapped up the service with a missing man formation made up of four vintage aircraft: a Harvard Mark 4, two AT-6G Texans and a Navy variant of the Texan, an SNJ-5C.
As the aircraft flew over the Nut Tree Airport, the yellow Harvard popped smoke from its tail and broke off from the formation in honor of Miller.
Miller will be interred in the Sacramento Valley National Cemetery at a later date. Arrangements are under the care of Bryan-Braker Funeral Home. The guest book can be signed at www.bryanbraker.com.
Locklin said that when she went to Paradise Valley to tie up matters just after her father died, one of the caregivers that was with Miller when he dies said that the phone rang at that moment.
The ring tone, which Locklin played at the memorial, was that of a propeller aircraft taking off into the heavens, and could not have been more appropriate.
Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or ithompsondailyrepublic.net. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ithompsondr.