by Tammie Hensley | August 23, 2021 4:10 pm
Last Updated: August 24, 2021 at 3:04 pm
Two days after Thanksgiving in 1998, a retired Kansas postmaster and U.S. Navy veteran took on a daunting new role that came with an unusual title for a man who had never raised children of his own. Granddad Bill.
William George Miller never looked back. Over the next 23 years, being a grandfather of five became one of his most cherished roles in life. Mr. Miller died on Wednesday, August 18, 2021, at Aldersgate Village in Topeka, Kansas. He was 91.
Born in Topeka on February 25, 1930, he was the only child of William (Willy) Ernest and Marie Barbara Kisner Miller. He attended Oakland Elementary and Holiday Junior High and graduated from Topeka High School in 1947. He immediately enlisted in the Navy and left for boot camp in San Diego, and because he was only 17, his parents had to give their permission. Bill was among the 15 out of a class of 60 to finish submarine school in New London, Connecticut, and was assigned to the USS Charr SS328 for the next 6 years. After that, he spent three years as a Navy recruiter in Topeka.
Bill married Shelley Walker on August 28, 1954. He owned a farm west of Linn, Kansas, and though he and Shelley had no children, the Harvey Herrs family that has farmed his ground since the 1960s became his family.
After his honorable discharge from the Navy in 1957, Bill worked as a clerk and customer service representative for the Topeka Post Office and then became Postmaster at Ulysses, Kansas. When he retired in 1985, he was appointed chairman of the Grant County Senior Citizens Committee and directed the establishment of the Senior Center. Bill was active in the Eagles Lodge and Masonic Lodge, was a Paul Harris Fellow in Rotary International and a licensed lay reader and chalice bearer at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Ulysses. The couple moved back to Topeka in 1994, and Shelley died on July 31, 1997, after a long illness.
On November 28, 1998, Bill married Eleanor Herr Thomas, becoming an instant grandfather to her five grandchildren. Though it was a sharp learning curve, he quickly rose to the challenge. He loved to tell the story about the time one of the youngsters asked if he could have a snack and when he told him to “go ask Nana,” the grandson looked up at him and responded: “Can’t you make any decisions around here?”
Good-natured and well read, Bill loved to discuss politics and other current events. He’d let out a familiar chuckle during a conversation and would often hum as he performed chores around the house.
Bill and Eleanor traveled extensively, from visiting the courthouses in all 105 Kansas counties over a seven-year period to taking trips to Alaska, Hawaii, Germany, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, the Netherlands, Austria and Iceland. The couple attended Crestview United Methodist Church in Topeka and were members of the Rendezvous Carousel Dance Club. He was a member of the Legion of Honor of the Arab Shrine and served as commander in 2007.
Survivors include his wife, Eleanor; stepson Tracy (Judy) Thomas of Lenexa, Kansas; stepdaughters Teresa (Greg) Quandt of Peachtree City, Georgia, and Terri Thomas of Olathe; grandchildren Matthew (Rebecca) Quandt; Justin (Laura) Thomas; Lindsay (Joel) Gossner; Josh (Jada) Quandt; Nate (Sarah) Thomas; great-granddaughter, Sidney Thomas; and Bill’s farm family, Kent (Jo) Herrs; Jayne (Don) Lehman); Dean (Connie) Herrs; Lisa (Brad) Dieckman; and their children and grandchildren.
Services will not be held at this time due to the current environment surrounding COVID. The family will plan a service at a later date.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Shriners Hospital for Children — St. Louis or to the Herr Memorial Scholarship at Kansas State University, in care of Penwell-Gabel Funeral Home, 1321 S.W. 10th Ave., Topeka, KS 66604. To leave a message for Bill’s family, please visit www.PenwellGabelTopeka.com.