James Miller Sr., affectionately known by many as Jim, ‘The Old Boy’ and as ‘Pops’ to his beloved family, passed away peacefully on June 24, 2020 at Saint Francis Hospital in Roslyn, New York. Jim is survived by his cherished wife Barbara and would have celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary this coming August. He is also survived by their six children, James Miller Jr. and his wife, Deborah, Dr. Barbara Gaines and her husband, Dr. John Gaines, Glen Miller and his wife, Susan, Mark Miller and his wife, Biriçim, Tracey Orlando and her husband, Vincent , and Jenniffer Wheeler and her husband, Charles, his loving 14 grandchildren, one great-grandchild, and was awaiting the birth of his second great grandchild. Jim is also survived by his brothers Richard and Dave Miller, sister Loretta LaManna and their respective spouses and his surviving brother in law John Mayer and surviving sister in law Rosemary Miller as well as his many nieces and nephews.

Jim had an impact on countless lives and left a legacy that stretches far beyond what any of us truly know. His ability to mentor and inspire anyone through invaluable life lessons has led to thousands of connections and memories. James was known for his fierce dedication to family, sharp wit, optimistic intellect, and his raw grit and determination. Jims’ life philosophy was, “Nothing bad ever happens – we just need to find the opportunities in everything.” Everyday he showed that through hard work, fairness, and adjusting your perspective, anyone can rise above a difficult circumstance and succeed.

Jim felt it was the duty of older generations to lift up younger ones. He would often use the image of a father holding a child on his shoulders to illustrate this idea. He believed that what we learn over time isn’t meant for us to hold onto for ourselves, but rather share to help others overcome and build their own success in life. 

His incredible 85 years began on March 30, 1935. Jim was born to parents Harry and Cecilia Miller at home in Merrick, NY. Growing up with next to nothing, Jim’s tenacity and character were forged in humble beginnings, motivating him to persevere against all odds. After running various businesses ranging from spackling and home construction to commercial fishing, he ultimately used his ingenuity and ambition to build a world-renowned environmental company, Miller Environmental Group and was a cofounder of the globally operating firm, National Response Corporation ( NRC). Right up to his recent hospitalization,  Jim worked every day and remained relevant and vital.  Despite having left school after 11th grade, Jim’s real life experience and inventive mind led to the founding of multiple companies, organizations and associations. Although he had a severe case of dyslexia, his natural intellect and creative problem solving allowed him to develop and patent several inventions. He always felt “seeing things backwards was a gift” that enabled him to attack problems from an entirely different approach than others. While he has received many awards over the years, his most treasured accomplishment was his children and grandchildren.

Beyond all of his life’s success, Jim was still a humble and simple man. He was most in his element on the water with a fishing pole in hand. He took joy in reeling in a ‘big one’ and sharing a good fishing story. He would teach his life lessons with a line in the water waiting for a fish to bite. Jim will be terribly missed by his family and dear friends, but there’s no doubt he’s looking down on us shaking his head with that side smile saying, “This isn’t something bad, I’ve lived well. But, YOU have more to do. Now go and find that opportunity”.

The Old Boy’s life story was memorialized in the biography, “Nothing Bad Ever Happens” penned by Ben Cosgrove. 

The family will be holding a private visitation. Graveside prayers and burial will be held on Thursday July 2 at 11 a.m. at St. Patrick’s Cemetery on Main Bayview Road in Southold. Family and friends are invited to attend the cemetery. Please be advised, masks must be worn and social distancing is required. 

In lieu of flowers, contributions in honor of James Miller may be made to Seatuck Environmental Association where funds will be used to support the construction and maintenance of migratory fish passages on the Peconic River. For more information please see the Coster-Heppner Funeral Home website

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.