Donald Nicholson Miller, passed away peacefully on Saturday, February 25, 2023, in the home he loved in Fortuna. He was born on September 25, 1942, in Pasadena to Donald Furlong and Shirley Russell Miller.
His father worked for General Motors and they moved frequently until he became the owner of Pioneer Dodge dealership in San Jose, and they settled in the Bay Area, where Don lived for many years.
Don loved nature, cars and gardening. He brought snakes home at the age of five. One of the snakes got away and was found in a neighbor’s yard, where a young boy was playing with it. He was eight years old when he got his first bird of prey, a sparrowhawk, that he took from a nest when he was sure the bird was old enough to survive out of the nest. He named the bird, Michael. Later he got Josephine, a female sparrowhawk, which he gave to his brother, David. At the age of 13 he found a screech owl nest in the hollow of a tree. He took one of the baby owls and named it Sammy. Sammy would sit on Don’s shoulder when he rode his bike, then Sammy would fly up around Don’s head and land back on his shoulder. In the early 1960s he found an “eyas” or “eaglet” golden eagle which he took out of the nest. He took the bird home and named her “Illegal the eagle.” In 1966 “Illegal” made headlines in the San Mateo Times when she flew over to a neighbor’s home and was using her talons to pull up the roofing. He became a master falconer and hunted with birds of prey, including eagles, falcons, and hawks for many years. He loved all animals, especially cats, and there was always at least one in his home. One cat, who he named Butch, would go for walks with him and the neighbor kids would ask if Butch could come out and play.
Don and his dad rebuilt a 1930 Model A Ford, which he drove through his high school years. He purchased a 1957 Ford T-bird in 1963 and has been restoring a 1959 Porsche Cabriolet for many years.
His daughter says her dad could do pretty much anything and everything! From building a beautiful redwood deck with a hot tub, to laying a large all brick patio, a greenhouse out of scrap old windows, to a hawk house! He refinished the cabinets and floors and painted the exterior of his home in Fortuna. He loved gardening, plants and drinking his coffee. Every morning he would sit in a chair on his front porch, looking out at the beautiful trees, begonias, and other flowers he had planted that lined the brick walkway up to his front porch.
He attended San Jose State College where he was a member of Sigma Nu Fraternity. During his time at SJSC, he was Master of Ceremonies at numerous events including the annual Sparta Sings, Under the Spell of Music. He graduated with a master’s degree in business.
As a 1st Lieutenant in the Army, he served in Viet Nam for two years 1969-1970 when he was released from the army to teach at San Jose State College. His professional career included working for Levi-Strauss and Westinghouse.
His interest in art and painting began at an early age and continued until his death. Don experimented with numerous mediums and finally chose acrylic because it dried quickly and he could get brilliant colors. He referred to his style as “ultra-realism” because he wanted his paintings to look like photographs. After retiring he and his wife, Sue, moved to Fortuna and they dedicated full-time to his art, traveling to shows from the North Coast to the East Coast and into Canada. He won numerous awards for his wildlife art including Alaska and California Ducks Unlimited Stamps, Washington State Duck Stamps, and Canada Conservation Stamps. Because he was a gifted artist, his legacy will live on through his art.
He was preceded in death by his parents, his first wife, Betty, and his son Alex. He is survived by his wife, Sue Ann, his daughter Christine Gomez, grandchildren Jacob and Chloe, and stepdaughters Tamara Orlando, Teresa Foreman, and Tara Veronda (Tim) and grandchildren Nate, Ashley, Amanda, Jimmy, Michael, and Ella, his brother Dave (Billie Kay), Sister Jude Melrose (Phil), and Sister Susie Miller.
A celebration of life will be held on Saturday, March 11, from 1-4 pm, at 1444 Ross Hill Road, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints building. Lunch will be served. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Humboldt Wildlife Care Center.
The obituary above was submitted on behalf of Don Miller’s loved ones. The Lost Coast Outpost runs obituaries of Humboldt County residents at no charge. See guidelines here. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.