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Constable remembered for positive impact on Lake Nebagamon

Friends and family gathered to honor Army veteran and former Lake Nebagamon constable Chuck Miller  last week. At a flag-raising for the veteran, current Lake Nebagamon Marshal Pete Witt summed up Miller’s impact on the village: He was community police before it was a buzzword.

“He always felt if he treated people with respect, you got the respect you deserved,” said Douglas County Sheriff’s Sgt. Richard Schnell.

Miller, who served as constable for 15 years, had a real feel for the community he lived in. Sheriff Tom Dalbec asked Miller one day what he was up to. He said he just got done helping a lady in town carry her groceries to her house.

“That’s what he truly did every day,” Schnell said. “If people needed help, they called Chuck.”

He carried groceries, jumped cars, shoveled sidewalks and more.

“Older ladies would call him if their light bulb burned out” because they couldn’t reach it, said Miller’s wife, Pat,

Miller believed in giving young offenders a break instead of a ticket.

“He’d make them work on a Saturday in orange vests,” Pat Miller said, picking up the beach and painting fences. “Kids loved him.”

“And I think they had a lot of respect for him,” Schnell said.

“A couple of them are cops today,” Pat Miller said.

“I’m sure they’re better for it,” said Miller’s brother, Mike.

The former constable was a good friend who treated everyone like family, said Jim Hase of Lake Nebagamon. He taught ATV safety courses for youth and started a mentorship program for at-risk kids.

“The kids were falling through the cracks until Miller took them in and showed them another way of life,” said Tony Coletta of Lake Nebagamon, who has continued the program. “He was a guiding force for all of us. When you have someone there to serve and protect, it really matters.”

Deputies appreciated Miller’s open-door policy.

“My house was the police station,” Pat said, with the scanner going in the living room and coffee available at any hour for officers patrolling in the area. Many deputies stopped by the house for dinner, as well. Pat said she would pull out some leftovers or a bowl of soup for them.

Prior to serving as constable, Miller served in the U. S. Army for more than 20 years, including two years in Vietnam.

Pat met Miller when the two were attending Northwestern High School.

“The first time he asked me out, he stood me up,” she said. He had stopped to help fight a fire in Brule. At age18, Miller hitchhiked to Minneapolis and joined the army. The couple started dating when he returned from basic training. Pat was a senior. They married a year later, two weeks before Miller left for a tour of duty in Vietnam. Pat was pregnant at the time and Miller came home to a three-month-old daughter. After a second tour in Vietnam, Miller continued to serve. He retired at age 38.

“There was no way he was going to sit down and retire, no way,” Pat said. “He’d drive me nuts.” Miller found a new way to serve as constable. His brother Mike said it was impossible to separate his service for his country from his service to the community.

“He had a strong honor for service,” he said.

“He was just a good friend to everybody,” Hase said. “That’s the way it should be.”