By EMMALEE C. TORISK
Scott Miller won’t reveal the secret to his longevity, but his family is sure it has something to with his always keeping busy.
At 96, Miller still drives, bowled three times a week up until just a few months ago, and counts among his recent purchases a pair of hedge clippers — which he fully intends to use.
“People ask, ‘What do you do to live this long?’” Miller said. “I tell them, ‘To know, you had to be there.’”
A son-in-law, Richard Banks of Canfield, recalls how Miller recently had some issues with his hot water tank, original to his home, and insisted that Banks come over and help him with it.
When Banks arrived there, he found “everything torn apart” — and realized that Miller, who had technically retired from plumbing in 1979, wasn’t going to let Banks do a whole lot of anything.
“He got in there and put it together by himself,” Banks said. “He always has done it 100 percent, with no shortcuts, and would give me heck if I did. We need a lot more of those guys.”
Earlier this month, Miller was recognized by Local 396 of the United Association of Union Plumbers, Fitters, Welders and HVAC Techs for 75 years of service — three-fourths of a century that included a start at his family’s business on the South Side of Youngstown, a stint with the Navy Seabees during World War II, and upon his return, a tremendous amount of work in the area, from the region’s steel mills to its cemeteries.
The 75-year service award is an honor that just 35 out of more than 350,000 members of the plumbers and pipefitters union across the U.S., Canada and Australia have attained.
Butch Taylor, business manager for Local 396, said Miller’s history is “just phenomenal.” He added that he felt lucky to meet Miller not only to hear about his career that spanned “the Depression, World War II and the growth of the nation,” but also to thank him for the years of service and dedication that he’s given to his trade.
Miller’s efforts, Taylor added, helped to create better opportunities for all union members.
“This is what it’s all about,” Taylor said. “They protected the country, then they came back and built the country.”
Born in August 1917, Miller began his plumbing career at age 18, shortly after graduating from South High School in 1935. He started as an apprentice for C.R. Miller and Sons Plumbing and Heating, his father’s business, as did his younger brother, Merle Miller.
At the time, the plumbers and steamfitters union did not accept new members until after they’d completed the standard five-year apprenticeship. In 1936, however, the UA adopted a national plumbing apprenticeship plan, and Miller joined the union two years later, in 1938.
He remembered working four days a week as an apprentice, then spending one day each week receiving instruction. He also recalled having to learn both the city and state plumbing codes — and the “whole lot of lead” that was an integral part of plumbing back then.
The tools were different, too. Today’s plumbers have inflatable rubber plugs to test the plumbing and hold back water; Miller used oatmeal.
“There’s so much difference” between now and then, Miller said.
Lenore Banks, Miller’s youngest daughter and Richard Banks’ wife, explained that her father is “very, very humble.” She didn’t learn of him receiving an award for 70 years of union service until after the fact — and made sure that she and the rest of the family would be present for the next one. They were.
What made the honor so special, his daughter said, was that so many younger members of the plumbers and steamfitters union attended the regular meeting during which Miller was honored. They gave him a standing ovation. Seeing several generations of union members together really put the honor into perspective, she added.
“He’s a good, good man, and I’m so proud of him,” she said. “It’s a long time overdue, for not only service to his country but pride in his profession. ... He was a perfectionist with everything he did.”
Richard Banks added that Miller — who also belonged to a musicians union, as he played saxophone in a big-band orchestra for many years — is simply “a standup guy” who guided him during the years he was a union representative for Schwebel Baking Co.
Miller was never hateful with companies; instead, he always tried “to be fair and to fight for the good people,” Banks said.
“I respect him so much,” he said. “He was very influential on me.”
“On both of us,” his wife added.