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Adams: Bob Miller, Kamikaze attack survivor, Inventor at 94 and More

This week I am going to tell you the story of a fascinating man. You will come away marveling at his life story, and what he continues to do at age 94.

Robert “Bob” Miller, Sr was my guest at the monthly night of inspiration I host where I live here in South Bend, IN. A decorated WWII hero, he got a standing ovation as he gingerly made his way to the set, where the audience was riveted hearing his life stories.

unnamed-8I will start with his service on the USS Essex carrier in WWII. While he was onboard, they withstood 357 Japanese air attacks and set a naval milestone by spending 79 consecutive days in combat. Miller was Battery Officer of a anti-aircraft gun and was injured when a Japanese Kamakaze plane smashed into the Essex. The picture below is of the explosion.

unnamed-9Miller was near the explosion and was thrown across deck, suffering a concussion but did not seek treatment until his men were back in order. He would receive a Purple Heart for his valor.

To this day, seventy years later, Miller can vividly see those Kamikaze attacks and pilots. If it is a cloudy day, he has struggles because back in 1944 the Japanese pilots would hide in the clouds and then dive relentlessly. Often as young as 19, they had already had their funerals preached and had cut off locks of hair to leave for their mothers. Miller told me it was terrifying to see them diving towards them. Over 1300 Japanese pilots died in these suicide attacks, with their Emperor promising them instant glory upon death.

Bob Miller was born in 1920 and was nine when the great Depression hit America> His father.lost his interest in his hardware and lumberyard business; was dead broke, and had many unpaid bills, bills he had personally promised to pay. Getting a job with Sherwin Williams, his Creditors were fierce and he was constantly worried. Everyone told him to file bankruptcy to get rid of the creditors, but he would not do it. He said that he promised to pay those debts and he could not break his word. He kept paying, sometimes as little as a dollar or two a month on each. The pressure kept building and brought on a cerebral Hemorrhage from which he died in about one hours time. The depression killed him.

unnamed-10Dirt poor, in a Model T Ford his brother Earl found him for just $15, Bob would deliver his mother’s mouth watering bread on Saturdays, charging two dozen rolls for a quarter.

A solid high school football player in Indianapolis, Notre Dame gave him a scholarship to play football. Used out of position, he struggled and lost his full ride. Determined not to go back to Indy without a degree, the Notre Dame football coach, Elmer Layden, helped him get numerous jobs so he could make it through.

You’ll love this one! He started selling corsages to women at the Notre Dame Stadium on game day. Every Saturday for home games, he would get up early and hitch a ride with a friend to a flower farm in Buchanan, Michigan, just about 35 minutes from campus, and buy a load of Dahlias. He’d fashion them into corsages and sell them outside the stadium. His favorite story is what he charged. If he could get the corsage pinned on the woman before the price was asked, it was a dollar. Otherwise, it was fifty cents. His thinking was, who is going to make their mother or wife or girlfriend take off a corsage because it’s too expensive? Ha!

He graduated from Notre Dame in 1942 with an accounting degree and that is when he went into the Navy. After the war he came back and got his Law degree Cum Laude from Notre Dame in 1947. He would go into a highly successful legal career, eventually becoming Superior Court Judge in his home county.
Remember earlier when I wrote about his Dad dying from the pressure of the depression, determined to try to repay his debt.

“From that story,” Bob told me, “I established a like attitude that I cannot and will not break a promise, and refused to assist a client in breaking his promise. Accordingly, I refused, and never did, file a bankruptcy in 64 years in the law business. I acknowledge that bankruptcy is the legal, advisable and frequently the only smart choice for an individual, but just keep me out of it.”

Widowed twice and having raised five wonderful children, Bob has not slowed down one bit in retirement. His daughter Mindy said this about him in his mid 90’s:

“His mind works 24 hours a day, ever thinking about ways to solve problems – ways to make life easier for people like himself. His theory is that if he can solve a problem he experiences personally, he will simultaneously solve it for many, many others. And he is right. Now in his 90’s, when he should be resting and taking it easy, my dad chooses to get up every morning and grow Rising Improvements, a company he started in 2014 with the mission of creating mobility aids designed to help people remain independent longer and better.”

The other day when I visited his house, Bob showed me how Hold Me Up is helping so many people. With the help of this longtime assistant, Eva, he showed me the physics and leverage of this device, which is selling like hot cakes on Amazon.

unnamed-11His daughter said that at just short of 95, he works tirelessly with engineers, attorneys and manufacturing companies, creating prototypes, obtaining patents and trademarks, arranging for molds and making products. He just keeps on going and as Mindy says, they know the reason for this. “He has told us many times,” says Mindy, “that his mother’s most prized life lesson was, ‘You’re allowed to fail. But you’re never allowed to quit.’

And he doesn’t.”

“When you cease to make a contribution, you begin to die.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

“My dad loves learning new things,” says Mindy, “How to sell on Amazon.com, how to use YouTube videos to make a sales pitch, and the art of doing business with China. He delights in using technology to further his goals. He is thrilled to participate in important meetings through teleconferencing, never having to leave the comfort of his home and the familiarity of his basement office. My dad is old-school in his values but he is on the cutting edge of every opportunity that helps him get the job done. I have the pleasure of working with him nearly every day on his many exciting inventions and they are some of the best days of my life.”

I had a long lunch with Bob last week (photo below) and was fascinated by what this man continues to do, despite having lost vision in one eye. While I couldn’t take a picture of it because a patent was pending, he took me on a tour of his house and showed me a device to help people with mobility challenges to get off the toilet.

unnamed-12This is a man, who in his late 80’s when most would be taking it easy, took it upon himself to bring honor to homeless vets where he lives in South Bend. He saw a picture in the local paper of what he thought was a homeless Veteran sleeping on an abandoned trucking terminal platform on an 18 degree winter day. It upset him mightily, so in 2009, he founded Miller’s Vets, a drill team of selected homeless Veterans in South Bend. He got them back in uniform, and their self esteem was restored as he had them trained to display advanced skills of flag, movement and weapon through color guard performances all over the community.

unnamed-13“It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.” – Leonardo da Vinci

What an incredible man and life story. From dirt poor in the Depression to education at a prestigious University, to heroic service in WWII and the Korean War, to Judge, and now an inventor and tireless worker for homeless Vets.

I have put in a short but powerful video of the actual attack of the Kamikaze on Bob and the USS Essex. Brace yourself.

Bob Miller onboard the USS Essex when horrifying Kamikaze attack happens

I have also put in a link to his inventions site RisingImprovements.com. You can click here to see Bob’s inventions and how they can those you know with mobility issues.


Charlie-Adams-e1378206959986-150x150Born in Oxford and educated at Ole Miss, Charlie Adams is a motivational speaker who specializes in sharing the fascinating back story of Lake Placid and the Miracle on Ice. His 90 minute to 2-hour presentation is filled with patriotism, the American dream, and the power of team. It is delivered to corporate, educational and church audiences. He can be reached at charlie@stokethefirewithin.com.

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