Peter Rene Miller (1959 – 2014) Peter Rene Miller, Rene to some, Pete to others, was born Nov.27, 1959 in rural Hartville, Ohio. His parents, Miriam (Wagler) and Loren Miller, already had a two-year old son, David; a third, Jan, was born a year and a half later, followed in five years by Eric. His mother remembers Rene as an early adventurer – when he was five months old, he crawled up a steep flight of stairs, and was discovered under a bed, "just having the time of his life." One time when he was still quite young, he came in and said, "Mommy, David is going to be punched, isn't he? God's going to punch him." She asked, "Why would God...
Peter Rene Miller (1959 – 2014)
Peter Rene Miller, Rene to some, Pete to others, was born Nov.27, 1959 in rural Hartville, Ohio. His parents, Miriam (Wagler) and Loren Miller, already had a two-year old son, David; a third, Jan, was born a year and a half later, followed in five years by Eric. His mother remembers Rene as an early adventurer – when he was five months old, he crawled up a steep flight of stairs, and was discovered under a bed, "just having the time of his life." One time when he was still quite young, he came in and said, "Mommy, David is going to be punched, isn't he? God's going to punch him." She asked, "Why would God punch David?" "He told a lie."
Rene and his three brothers constantly played outdoors, especially in and around the pond in their backyard. To keep neighborhood kids away, Rene told them that a big Crockadiddle was under water in the pond and came out at night. Jan recalls catching frogs, fish, turtles, and snakes. Or they'd pack a lunch and go out into the woods. If they forgot to bring a lunch, they knew where all the fruit trees were in the neighborhood, and migrated to the best fruit.
They'd often hang out in the apple orchard just above their place, climb up in the trees, eat apples, and talk. Sometimes they'd talk about what they'd do when they were older, "going to other countries, maybe build a space ship. He had a big imagination," Jan says. Or they'd explore a junkyard in a neighbor's field. He loved the old mason jars they found. "We had a great time. It was a great place to grow up."
One of Eric's early memories of Pete was playing with him on an old, two-wheel trailer their dad parked behind the pond. They were running from end to end, rocking the trailer back and forth, until Pete's foot went through the floorboard right as the trailer came down on it, breaking his foot. While Pete yelled, Eric hightailed it back to the house to get help.
Grandma Wagler was his teacher for grades one and two at Lake Center Christian Day School. He called her Mom, because that's what his mother called her, and he liked sitting on her lap during lunchtime. His Aunt Rho, who taught grades three and four in the adjacent classroom, recalls a time when a pencil went missing, quite likely stolen, and no one owned up. "Mom" told the class, "Everybody put your heads down and one of you is going to hear a little voice saying you're the one that did it." And soon Rene was waving his hand, saying, "Mom! Mom! I hear that voice!"
Grandma Wagler called Miriam one day to suggest that she help Rene study for his spelling tests. She was going over the words with him that Thursday night while Rene and Jan were goofing off. "If you don't get all these words right tomorrow, you're going to get punished harder than usual." He came home the next afternoon excited because he had spelled all the words right. "How did you do that?" his mom asked. "Oh, I just took a picture of the words with the little camera I have in my head."
Rene and his family moved to Englewood, Colorado in 1972 when he was almost 13. After adjusting to the change, the boys soon made a lot of friends in their neighborhood and at school, and began exploring their new place. He often didn't like school, because he learned differently than the way they taught. Once he wore torn pants to school, hoping it would get him thrown out.
Maybe he got bored with school because he was always learning new things on his own. There was a wide range of things he knew a lot about. His family sometimes thought of him as a mad scientist, always experimenting and paying meticulous attention to whatever he was interested in. Later he flourished at technical schools where he received multiple degrees and certificates.
His brothers recall that he was always into mechanics. Eric remembers a snowy winter day when Rene took the manual transmission out of a car – he slipped on the ice while carrying it, the transmission fell on him and smashed his arm. "He broke more bones than the rest of us combined." He fixed up some fast cars, including a '66 Chevy Nova SS. Jan recalls that he woke up on his birthday to learn from his mother that Rene had raced the Nova on Belleview, lost control, hit a telephone pole, flew about 50 feet, and escaped with only a broken arm. "It was a very bad accident - we could have lost him." And indeed, one of the two passengers was hurt pretty badly.
Long before he could drive, Rene and his brothers enjoyed walking in nearby parks and in the mountains above Denver. Throughout his life he loved camping in the mountains. Every summer he'd invite family and friends to camp with him. In his early 20s, Rene and his two younger brothers loaded up in a Ford Pinto and took a road trip through Las Vegas to Disneyland. He loved Disneyland, and drove there many times in the coming years with his family – for his daughters, these trips are some of their favorite childhood memories. His favorite rides were Space Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Haunted Mansion. He also loved to collect Disney pins.
When Rene was about three, he came to his mother with tears in his eyes. "What's wrong?" she asked, "Where does it hurt?" "I'm not hurt, mommy," he said. "The music is just so beautiful that it makes me cry." Jan remembers singing on the swings with Pete when they were quite young. Rene and his two oldest brothers took piano lessons early on, while Eric studied violin. Not long after coming to Denver, Eric recalls, "Pete started playing on an old Silvertone guitar that my folks bought from Sears for us when we were kids." He was diligent, seemed like you'd always see him with a guitar. Eric started playing drums when he was 12, and soon the two of them were jamming classic rock in the basement. Several years later Jan took up the bass. For more than 30 years the 3 brothers played together, sometimes with friends, most recently with Mike Hunt. Occasionally they'd play in public.
Meanwhile, Pete was becoming quite accomplished as a lead guitarist and began to play with a number of different bands that performed in the area. In the late 80's he was part of Metal Seminar, a heavy metal band. A couple members of that band including Pete next formed a new band, October. He began to like jazz, and still later he and his daughter Brittani performed praise music as members of the Sarah Samantha Rose Band. According to Eric, Pete was a "very enthusiastic musician. He loved playing lead guitar. He could go into a whole other universe. Sometimes you'd just have to bring him back. He was always willing to do new things with music, with tremendous energy and passion."
Rene was briefly married to Dana Ward with whom he had a son, Justyn (33), raised by his grandfather after Rene and Dana broke up. Justyn recalls hearing about Rene - he was told that his parents had married young and then discovered they were incompatible. Meanwhile Rene and Tresa, his second wife, were trying to find Justyn. By accident, Justyn met Rene's second daughter, Brittani, at a birthday party. He was warmly welcomed into the home of Rene and his family whenever he visited, and as a young man lived with them for 1½-2 years. Justyn remembers Rene as a loving dad, who supported him in doing what he wanted to do.
Tresa Ann Woods (born in 1961 in Englewood, CO) recalls the first time she met Rene: "I met him in a local bar. I wasn't planning on going out that night, but we went, my roommate and I. He asked me to dance so I danced, sat back down. So he came up, we got to talking, he introduced himself as Pete, Peter Miller. He goes, 'Can I have your phone number?' I said, 'Don't have a phone, can't afford one, single parent.' I go, 'Can I have yours?' He wrote down 'Rene' and his number." Tresa was puzzled why this young man gave her two different names. So it took her a week before she called him. She was impressed that he wasn't put off when she told him she had a young child. He told her he also had a child. Rene and Tresa were married on June 8, 1984.
Brandi (now 32), two years old when her mom married Rene, describes him as kind, funny, and "the most loving man I ever met." Because Rene treated her the same as his other daughters, not as a stepchild, she didn't realize until she was 11 that Rene had adopted her. She appreciates that he came back from Arizona where he was working on a job to be there when her son Kameron was born, and that he welcomed her back home after her divorce. She and her sisters loved to tease their dad, because he'd laugh at himself or tease them right back. It was easy to tease him about unfinished projects, like the clubhouse he started to build but got no further than a sand box, or the small pond he began digging in the backyard 20 years ago that is still incomplete, because he was often more interested in the next project than the one he was working on.
Second daughter Brittani (28) describes her dad as "the kindest man I've known, a big softie, and a good husband to my mom." "He never hesitated to do the right thing," like taking in several young people and stray animals. "He called me his Britters, his Britties." When she was picked on by her sisters, "he'd sneak me out of the house to get ice cream." She bonded with him through performing music. She loved their "random trips to the mountains." When they teased him about all the stuff he collected, stored in the garage, driveway, and house, Rene replied, "I'm not a hoarder, I'm a collector, and I just have a lot of stuff." She wants her boys "to grow up just like him," well, maybe not the collecting.
Youngest daughter Bethany (22) remembers her dad's silliness and playfulness. He'd come into her room at bedtime, push down on the bed, and say "bunka, bunka" as the mattress sprang back up. Once he joined his kids in jumping on a hotel bed until it broke. One of her favorite memories was of Rene trying to repair his broken, front, false teeth, only to superglue them to his fingers. "He was always late," she recalls, sometimes an hour or more. He was also always loving, passionate, creative, and the life of the party. She hopes to name a child either Peter or Rene.
He integrated many of his other passions into family life, such as the previously mentioned Disneyland and mountain camping trips. Rene made up songs for his children and often performed special music in the churches his family attended, first at Englewood Bible Church (which Tresa attended growing up), and more recently Calvary Bible Fellowship. He would spend hours looking for the perfect song for a church service. Tresa says Rene loved to garden in their big lot – vegetables, flowers, fruit trees, everything – and tried his hand at making applesauce and raising sweet corn like his Grandpa Wagler raised.
Tresa says Rene really missed Ohio, the Ohio of his childhood, and his memory of togetherness among extended family. He combined his love of road trips and his attachment to family in the many trips he and his family took east for the week-long Ohio gatherings of the descendants of his Grandpa and Grandma Wagler. On one trip to Ohio, they blew a fuse in Kansas and didn't have any interior lights to see the gauges on the dashboard. After the cops stopped Rene for speeding, they gave the kids a ride in their cop car to a nearby town while Rene and Tresa rode with the tow-truck. He also loved going with his family to the much larger biennial Wagler reunions in Daviess County in southern Indiana, where he enjoyed talking with his Amish cousins. Everywhere he went, in Englewood and on trips, he was everybody's friend - he loved to chat with everyone including strangers.
Jan says Rene went by the beat of own drum, so it was good that he could be self-employed. Rene had his own business for 30+ years – he installed satellite dishes, fiber optics, and home entertainment systems. At Tabernash, he wired a hotel for TV, phone, and Internet, and built a cell-phone tower. Justyn describes him as a creative problem solver who aimed to work smarter, not harder, and recalls an occasion when Rene used a remote-control car to pull wiring through a ceiling. Tresa and her daughters thought of him as an electrical genius.
Rene was a collector. He collected antique glass (especially cobalt and carnival), antique radios, old radio and TV tubes, coins, guitars, and amps. Although he had an antique store in Denver for a year, and sold items over the Internet, he bought more than he sold. Tresa said, "That man knows his inventory. He knows exactly what piece he has, where he keeps it, and what it's worth." He once told Tresa, "Those antennas outside the garage? That's our farm," meaning it would help pay for a farm. "And the antique glass in the garage? That's our retirement."
Justyn said his dad paid attention to every detail in his life, and also said, "He was a hopeless romantic." "A romantic in everything," Tresa added. He was a dreamer in his work, just as he was in his music and at home, constantly thinking of new and creative ways to do things and make a living. For example, he worked hard to create two new TV channels, D.I.V.E (about scuba diving), and Guitar Channel. And he did business under a variety of names as a way to try out new business strategies.
Rene's last year was full not only of illness and treatments but also of connections and celebrations. He believed if he could keep his food down, he'd be able to go with his family to the Wagler reunion in southern Indiana in July 2013, but unfortunately that didn't happen. Finally, in August, doctors diagnosed his problem: terminal esophageal cancer. From then on until his death he intermittently went to the hospital for treatments, as his health seemed to vary from critical to stable. Throughout the year, at home and at the hospital, he visited with lots of family and friends. For Tresa, every day was very special.
Thanksgiving was exciting, because by then he had lost his J-tube and could eat again. Right after Christmas, Brandi and Mathew got married, on December 28, the anniversary of Brandi's grandparents' wedding, and he was able to walk her down the aisle. "There was not a dry eye when they danced together," Tresa remembers.
In May, Tresa and Rene flew to Florida to spend eight wonderful days with his brother David and his wife Sharon in Key West. Rene got to drive David's boat a couple of times. "He was eating a lot."
"Then we got back and Brittani had little Landon. Rene was actually at the hospital at that time. He was on the 10th floor and Brittani was on the 5th floor." Brittani's nurses got special permission to bring the baby to him. That hospital stay "was when we found out he had more tumors in his stomach."
On June 8, Tresa and Rene celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary. "Again, we were in the hospital. The kids brought up cake and Hawaiian leis and we had a big celebration. The nurses came in and family. He bought me the biggest bouquet of flowers. On his little note it said, 'Happy Anniversary, Baby! I will love you until the last flower dies.'" There was a fake flower in the bouquet that will never die!
On June 30, Bethany and Kaleb were married at home. When Pastor Ken asked, "Who gives this bride away?" Rene answered, very clear and very present, "Her mother and I do." Those were the last words Bethany heard her father speak.
On Wednesday morning, July 2, 2014, Tresa was talking to Rene "and he would move his eyebrows up and down. I was telling him it was OK to let go, that everyone promised they would help take care of me. I knew he was in a lot of pain and I didn't want that for him. It was very hard. He looked up and threw me kisses and I kissed him and I just sat with him and held his hand. I just happened to be looking at him and he took his last breath." It was a bit after 9:00. "I just started crying and screaming."
Rene's extended family soon assembled. About 45 minutes after his death, Miriam asked to have a picture with her son. His niece Tracy took a photo that showed a column of light, which Tresa describes as "shining down on my husband's face. It's telling me God says, 'I have him. He's in good hands.' There's no possible way it was our sunshine," she explains, because the morning sun was still on the east side of the house while Rene's bed was on the west side, and distant from windows. "Whenever I get really upset, I look at that picture to remind me that I know he's in Heaven with God and all the people he loves. He will so be missed here."
Rene/Pete is survived by his wife, Tresa; his son, Justyn; daughters Brandi Thoreson and husband Mathew, Brittani Allen and husband David, and Bethany Smith and husband Kaleb; 5 grandchildren; his parents Miriam and Loren Miller; brothers David and wife Sharon, Jan and fiancé Danielle Knickerbocker, and Eric and fiancé Cheri Lucero; father and mother-in-law Gerald and Rhonda Woods; brothers and sisters-in-laws Kirk and Mary Woods and Lory and Cheri Woods; 10 uncles and aunts; 5 nieces; many cousins; and a 6th grandchild who will be born to Brandi and Mathew this fall.
Arrangements under the direction of Olinger Chapel Hill Mortuary & Cemetery, Centennial, Colorado.