By Michael S. Turrini
It has been two decades, since March 16, 1993, when Ronald Lee “Ron” Miller was tragically murdered in his Fremont, Calif. coin shop.
In the weeks following there were tributes in various California periodicals and local newspapers summing up that Ron was an ambassador to numismatics, attending a coin show nearly every weekend, belonging to over 15 local coin clubs as well as national and specialty groups, and serving as president of the Fremont Coin Club, San Jose Coin Club, and Northern California Numismatic Association, as well as holding other positions. His most notable contribution was cofounding the Fremont Coin Club back 1971.
In addition, he was a frequent speaker at local coin clubs, a generous supporter toward local coin club activities, and a staunch supporter of youth numismatics, plus a recognized authority in California tokens and Buffalo nickels, which he once addressed as his niche.
While it has been 20 years, and many may not remember him, his presence is still felt. At Fremont Coin Club meetings, every once in a while his name is mentioned, always in respect and reverence. Among coin dealers who have been in the business for many years, his name is spoken in kindness and acknowledgement of his knowledge and enthusiasm for our hobby, and his famous labeled coin holders and flips still appear just as the day that he marked and stapled these.
These are all good, and these speak of the legacy Ron left. His legacy is not just memories or his famous flit-tipped written wavy lined flips with that unique left-hand writing; no there are greater lessons.
Ron preached quality. Buy and collect quality, not just the highest grade or best choice specimen, but quality in the look and rarity. His talks always punctuated that quality never deteriorates nor loses its luster and only earns value and enjoyment years afterward.
Ron believed in service. His aforementioned short summary only tips the iceberg of his service. He committed himself to service in those groups that he joined and became active. He once remarked to this author that after a particular grueling ordeal at a local coin club board meeting he thought about quitting. I asked what he did: he returned to the next board meeting and continued, rising to become its president.
Ron encouraged others to participate. He wanted not so much others to replace him in a particular position or assignment, but to join in the effort. He firmly believed and advocated, by his own example, that one should be more than a dues-paying member; one should be a committed and contributing member.
Ron never forgot that family is first. With all his shop hours, weekends at shows, and regular cycle of meetings, family was first.
A fellow coin hobbyist of many years, Fred G. van den Haak, still recalls that he and Ron would always talk about their families and children rather than a potential coin purchase. Also, my late mother never forgot Ron telephoning a message saying that he could not attend an evening event since one of his children was quite sick, remarking as the dad he had to be with his kid.
It is these that endure, and among those dwindling number of acquaintances, customers, and friends, there is a legacy that now two decades later still lasts and cannot be forgotten.
For those of us who knew Ron, purchased coins from him, were associated in positions alongside of him, and still remember the telephone call reporting his tragic passing, we cannot forget. It is in this vein that this was written: to remind us that Ron was that “ambassador to numismatics.”
To continue his legacy, in the immediate years after his passing, the Northern California Numismatic Association established the Ron Miller Memorial Award, which includes The Miller Medal. This annual award has honored several Californian coin celebrants in its nearly two decades and is intended to instill Ron Miller’s example for decades yet to be.
Closing, Bruce Lee once remarked that “The key to immortality is first living a life worth remembering.” Nothing speaks of that more eloquently than the legacy of Ronald Lee “Ron” Miller.
This “Viewpoint” was written by Michael S. Turrini, a hobbyist from Vallejo, Calif. Viewpoint is a forum for the expression of opinion on a variety of numismatic subjects. To have your opinion considered for Viewpoint, write to David C. Harper, Editor, Numismatic News, 700 E. State St., Iola, WI 54990. Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.