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Originally published September 29, 2013 at 7:34 PM | Page modified September 29, 2013 at 9:05 PM

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Howard Miller, ‘Mr. Carnation,’ dies at 97

The beloved small-town businessman “did not make money, he made friends,” said his daughter.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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He was known as “the Stamp Man’’ and “Mr. Carnation.’’

By either name, Howard Miller — whose presence was so familiar in Carnation you could set your clock by his 8:45 a.m. walk to work — was a town legend known more for making friends than profits, said his daughter.

Mr. Miller, 97, died last Monday (Sept. 23) after a long illness.

Born in Kenosha, Wis., he moved as a child to Friday Harbor and later Seattle, graduating from Garfield High School in 1934. His father, Henry Miller, started a dry-goods store in Kirkland. Mr. Miller wanted to follow his father in the business, so he tagged along with a salesman when they visited Carnation.

He fell in love with the town, his daughter Marilyn Miller, of Bellingham, said. He started Miller Dry-Goods — which sold sturdy work clothes — opening it in 1938 and running the business for decades.

He gave pens away to high-school graduates, baby books to new mothers and, if someone didn’t have money and needed things at Christmas, he’d let them buy on credit, Marilyn Miller said.

“He did not make money, he made friends,’’ she said.

As a young man, Mr. Miller began collecting stamps, seeing in each small square a world of possibilities — history and places far from home. It was a passion he continued through the rest of his life, inspiring others to collect as well.

In 1996, he began volunteering in schools, asking students to name a stamp they’d like to receive. He’d arrive, give each a stamp, which the students had to hide until he told them all about the history it represented. The children got to keep the stamps.

In 2002, Mr. Miller was honored with a Hand in Hand Award from Generations United of King County for his classroom efforts in Carnation and elsewhere.

But he was known to earlier generations of students as well, said Marjorie Gould Qualls, who grew up a block from the Millers’ home.

Mr. Miller was a supporter of the school’s athletic program and wrote about sports events for the newspaper. Many years later, former athletes with children of their own would stop him on the street to comment on what he had written.

He was so much a part of the athletic scene in the town that Tolt Middle School’s athletic field is named the Howard Miller Field in his honor, she said.

Born on Leap Day, every four years his birthday is celebrated in Carnation as Howard Miller Day.

Mr. Miller was preceded in death by his wife, Marion. In addition to his daughter, he is survived by his son, Martin Miller, of Ellensburg; his brother, Ralph Miller, of Bellevue; sisters, Phyllis Danz, of Mercer Island, and Lorraine Trotsky, of Lake City; and three grandchildren.

There will be a celebration of his life from 4 to 6 p.m. Oct. 13 at the Sno-Valley Senior Center in Carnation.

Nancy Bartley: nbartley@seattletimes.com or 206-464-8522

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