February 24, 1948 ~ July 15, 2021

Born in: Catawba County, North Carolina
Resided in: Mills River, North Carolina

Gary Franklin Miller 73 of Mills River NC, died unexpectedly on Thursday July 15, 2021 at Pardee Hospital. He was born in Catawba County, but always loved the Mountains of WNC and moved to the Sylva area in 1975. He was the oldest of 4 boys born to Lala Ruth Miller and the late James Franklin Miller. He is survived by his wife of 25 years, Karen Burnette and son Benjamin Miller, also brothers David Miller, Kenneth Miller wife Sandy, Jeff Miller wife Michelle, a niece Alison Miller, and nephews Rob and Chad Miller along with Karen’s sister, Jean and Neal Henson. Gary loved his family very much. He was so proud of, and the happiest, when he and Ben were sharing time together.

Gary was nicknamed “Chief” in High School when he played guard in football. He was known by this name to many his entire life. He was a Merit Finalist and earned a 4 year scholarship to NC State. While at State, he lettered in fencing. After 2 years there, he left to join the Marine Corp. They offered to send him to officer training, but he declined wanting to go to Vietnam. He was there 1968-69. While stationed in DaNang, he was an Artillery Fire Direction Control Specialist. Afterwards back at home, he was concerned about the amount of drug use by teens, and started a Coffee House in Newton. It quickly became packed after school having to move to a larger location.

He was asked to teach CPR to nursing students at Western Piedmont College. He was measured for a uniform that day, started nursing school the next. He graduated in 1973 and was in the Who’s Who Among Students in American Junior Colleges. His first nursing job was at Valdese General where he was the Third Floor Charge Nurse responsible for 40 patients. After moving to Sylva, he started the medical program for Job Corp. Later thought he wanted to go to Anesthesia School, but was drawn to Emergency Medicine after he moved to Asheville in 1978. That became his destiny. He was excellent and thrived in that environment of rapid decision making. While working in Mission ER, he was also a clinical instructor of the paramedic programs at both AB Tech and WCU. MAMA flight program was a dream of Mission Hospital that came true in September 1986. He joined the team after he finished out the semester he was teaching. Gary loved to teach and part of his job as a Flight Nurse was continuing education for the 23 counties of WNC, this also included training for scene setup for the LZ. He was the first Flight Nurse to retire from MAMA, after 29 years.

Gary accomplished many things in his life. He was a pilot with a commercial and glider rating, skydiver, taught skydiving, an FAA certified parachute rigger, often flew the jump plane, belonged to Civil Air Patrol, Lifeguard, taught water safety classes, canoeing, and children swimming lessons, played Banjo in a Bluegrass Band, bowled on a league, shot pool in APA league, mountain biking, golfing, kayaking, camping, boating, scuba diving, fishing from fly to deep sea, rode motorcycles, avid reader, loved and fed wild birds, loved all wild animals, grew roses and honeysuckle, loved chipmunks, strong coffee, self taught stain glass, grilling, using the smoker, brewing beer, 55 gallon fresh water aquarium, adopted exotic birds including parakeets, a cockatiel, and an African Grey Parrot that he adored, had a tarantula and a hedgehog, baked pastries, saved road crossing turtles, beekeeping, cherished every dog that owned him, and loved RVing winters in the Keys and so many more other activities.

Gary Miller had an extraordinary drive to live life to its fullest. Everything he did was intense and precise. He always strove to keep his patients comfortable and was their advocate throughout his 41 years of nursing. He was compassionate and kind, a Southern gentleman, super intelligent, had a photographic memory, and made many friends along his journey. He was admired, respected, and loved by many. His absence is felt but his influence on others will last their lifetime and they will pass it on and on….Rest in Peace, Mr. Miller. We are grateful for the knowledge you shared with us, the compassion for others you exemplified, and the impact you made in Emergency Medicine in WNC either directly or indirectly through the hands of others you have taught. Gary Miller, YOU were one of a kind!

Groce Funeral Home at Lake Julian is assisting the family.

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Guestbook

  1. I have many fond memories of working with Gary in the Old Mission ER. He was one of my mentors and he taught me so much ! He was an awesome nurse and wonderful human being ! He will be missed dearly ! I am very thankful for all the years I had the privilege to know and work beside him. Rest In Peace My Friend…

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  2. I thought he was one of the smartest,Nicest men I ever met and thank the lord for his friendship.Bless you and your family Gary.Gosh I’m gonna miss those phone calls.

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  3. Rip Gary.
    Sincere thoughts of sympathy to all the family and loved ones. Grief is a hard journey, it is love with no place to go. But He is with you all In spirit. sorry for this loss to all.

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  4. I was honored to work with Gary “Mr. Miller” on MAMA for ten years, he was a friend and a mentor. Gary not only taught me a tremendous amount about providing the highest level of care possible for our patients, he was also an example for how we should all enjoy life and help others. My thoughts and prayers go out to Karen and Ben and the rest of Gary’s family and friends.

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  5. When Buncombe County first started Paramedic level service Gary served as instructor and mentor and good friend to all of us. He was one of those people that you want to see when things are very bad. He was an awesome nurse and great guy and his death leaves a space on this earth not easily filled. Our condolences and prayers are with his family and multitude of friends. Rest easy Mr. Miller.

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  6. I was honored to work with Gary for many years. He was truly one of the smartest most compassionate nurses I have ever known. RIP Mr. Miller.

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  7. I was honored to work alongside Gary at the old Mission ED when I worked in Security. Part of our job was to clear the area for MAMA to land, and to assist with patient transport across to the ED. Gary was one of the most compassionate nurses I have ever known. Prayers for peace and strength to the family during this difficult time.

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  8. So many fond memories of Gary. Blessed to have met him, and work with him❤️🙏sending Karen and family prayers for strength and peace.

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  9. Karen so sorry for the loss of Gary, he was a smart unreal person, so glad he could do anything. He will by missed by you and his son, and many otherpeople. I was volunteering at Mission Hospital and went inside his parked Helicopter but he was out picking up a client. He had to be a good man. Love u Karen, your cousin Pat Mauney Duncan

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  10. Karen so sad for the loss of Gary he was a very smart, special man. He will be missed by you, his son and lots of his family and his friend’s. Love you, and everyone who was connected to him. Your cousin, Pat Mauney Duncan

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  11. So sorry for the loss of your husband Gary.I know he will be missed by you and His son and all of his special friends. much love from your cousin Pat MAUNEY Duncan

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  12. I was in one of the first classes of paramedics at AB-Tech, where Gary taught Pharmacology and served as a clinical instructor. He was scary smart and I was intimidated by his endless and encyclopedic knowledge of medicine. I remember clearly making sure that I knew absolutely everything about each medication I was to administer to a patient during clinical rotation. I did not relish the thought of coming up short if Gary asked a question I couldn’t answer. To this day, I can still figure out the dopamine drip formula in my head from memory. Gary demanded excellence from his students, and I was grateful for it. Gary was my first partner on MAMA when I started full-time in 1991, and I already knew he had forgotten more than I would ever learn about emergency medicine. A sharp wit, always full of humor (but you had to be paying careful attention), an expert at everything he did and learned, and a truly kind and gentle soul underneath what only seemed like a gruff persona. My most heartfelt condolences for Karen and Ben, and all his family. He will be sorely missed.
    Semper Fi, old friend!

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  13. Gary departed from his earthly life too soon, but he certainly impacted so many lives during his tenure. A man of many talents, a positive role model, an excellent nurse full of compassion, friend & mentor to sooo many. He will be missed by those who knew him. My sympathies to the entire Miller family for their unfortunate loss. There is no sickness or sorrow in Heaven.

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  14. Gary played golf with our Keys group and loved the game and it’s challenges. He even wanted to sleep with his new driver but I am sure that never happened! He was an enjoyable golfer and a great friend and we will miss him. Gary and Karen volunteered for just about everything in the Keys from picking up trash to campaigning for money for Vets for the Long Walk Home. The Keys will miss them since they spent a lot of quality time there. Rest In Peace Gary and courage to Karen in his absence.

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  15. I’m so sorry for your loss Dearest Karen… you have so been in my heart and thoughts the last while. Mr Miller will be missed. My heart goes out to you and your family.

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