Mary Lib Miller, Delvin Miller's widow, dies
September 01, 2009
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Mary Lib Miller, the widow of Hall of Famer Delvin Miller, died Tuesday morning at her home in the Bay Hill section of Orlando, Fla. She had been in ill health for several weeks.
Mrs. Miller was born December 6, 1920 in Winston-Salem, NC. After graduation from high school she was employed by the 8th Air Force where she met her first husband, John McCrary Jr. McCrary was killed in the Battle of the Bulge in 1944. In March 1946, she married Delvin Glenn Miller, a harness horse trainer and driver and a friend of McCrary’s, with whom she had corresponded during Miller’s deployment in the China-Burma-India theater after he sent her a letter of condolences upon hearing of his buddy’s death.
The world of horse racing was new to Mrs. Miller; she confessed to never having been to a harness race. She learned very quickly, however, locking herself away and studying the weekly trotting magazines that were delivered to their home. “We had to get two subscriptions, so Delvin could read one.”
The Millers divided the first few years of their marriage between the harness racing season, based from his family home in Western Pennsylvania, and winter quarters in Winston-Salem, where Mr. Miller trained a private harness racing stable and ran the breeding operation for tobacco magnate William N. Reynolds’ Tanglewood Farm. Mrs. Miller became a great friend of Mr. Reynolds, their patron, who gave her the 1933 Hambletonian trophy, a silver platter, won by his filly Mary Reynolds. She later donated the precious artifact to the Harness Museum & Hall of Fame [of the Trotter] in Goshen, N.Y., where she and her late husband were trustees for many decades.
In 1947, the Millers purchased Meadow Lands Farm in Meadow Lands, PA., converting the former dairy farm into a major breeding operation with the purchase of their prolific stallion, Adios, her favorite horse. Mrs. Miller always felt a special bond with the great stallion, sometimes riding him, and feeding him a peeled apple daily.
In 1963 Mr. Miller founded The Meadows race track a short distance from the farm, which hosted the Adios Stake every August (now the Delvin Miller Adios) and Grand Circuit racing for a week in honor of their great horse. The Miller home was renowned throughout the trotting world as a center of hospitality, with Mrs. Miller as the vivacious and seemingly inexhaustible hostess, “no matter who or what hour Delvin brought somebody home.” She was a “hands-on” mistress of Meadow Lands Farm, attending to every detail, in doors and out. For over a half century Mary Lib shared countless victories and honors with Delvin, none more thrilling, according to her, than their triumph with Delmonica Hanover in Paris in 1974 in the Prix d’Amerique, European trotting’s most prestigious event.
The farm was sold in 1986 and the Millers moved their “northern” home to their Meadowcroft project at Bancroft Farm near Avella, PA, which had been owned by the Miller family since the late 1700s. Beginning in the late 1960s, the Millers developed Meadowcroft Village as a museum of 19th century rural life on the Bancroft Farm. They saved local structures including the one-room school house where Mr. Miller had gone to elementary school, relocated other period buildings, and collected furnishings, horse-drawn vehicles and other artifacts of the time, providing a charming and educational destination for thousands of Western Pennsylvania school children and families. The Miller Museum on the site chronicles Mr. Miller’s family history and his extraordinary eight decade career in harness racing.
The Millers moved to Bay Hill, Orlando, FL., in 1988 to enjoy their other consuming passion – golf – and the company of their next-door neighbor and close friend Arnold Palmer. Each year during Mr. Palmer’s PGA tournament, the Bay Hill Invitational, the Millers entertained a steady stream of friends from the professional golf world, harness racing and other sports.
Mary Lib’s beloved partner, Delvin Miller, passed away in 1996. After Delvin’s death, Mrs. Miller remained active, finishing the “Eight Decades Room” at Meadowcroft and organizing Mr. Miller’s extensive collection of memorabilia and letters from his unparalleled career as harness racing’s greatest all-round horseman. Visitors, always welcomed to their Bay Hill apartment, were treated to Mrs. Miller’s wit, frank opinions and vivid memories of her extraordinary life with Delvin.
In 2007, the harness writers and the harness racing community of Pennsylvania established the Mary Lib Miller Award for outstanding contribution to Pennsylvania Harness Racing.
Mrs. Miller is survived by Mr. Miller’s son, Delvin, grandson, Delvin “Butch” (Patricia), four great-grandchildren, and a nephew, John Townsend.
Mrs. Miller will be laid to rest along side her husband at Cross Creek Cemetery in Avella, PA, in a private service.