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Random Thoughts from a Random Memory

Updated: Feb 3


By Edward Master


His given name was E. Willard Miller. His father was Arch Miller; his mother Tessie was my Grandpa (Bert) Master's sister, making their son and my father first cousins.

I was never 'around' Willard that much, socially, as he lived in St. College. His father had passed long before I was an age to remember him. I knew Tess much better, even though I was just a youngster. I would tag along with grandpa when he visited his sister Tessie. I sort of enjoyed that because I could amble through her home which at one time was a hotel. I didn't know the building's history, just that it had a lot of rooms. I used to pick up my Sunday Pittsburgh Press newspapers for my delivery on Tessie's front porch. I believe at one time there was an orchard on adjoining property to the north; there was a long driveway on the building's south-side. Tessie sort of fussed over me, probably cause I was her brother's grandson.

My father always referred to him as Willard; I swear I heard some of his friends (or work associates), maybe even his wife Ruby, call him "Will." To this day, I still don't know what the "E" stood for. My only guess would be "Edward", since my grandfather was Edward Bert, but my dad's middle name was Eugene. I'm inclined to think I'll never know.

Willard may have remained in public school an extra year just so he could graduate from the St. Petersburg-Richland Township school. My father's class of 1942 was the first class to go through 12 years at the St. Pete building.

Willard later graduated from Clarion Normal School, today called Penn West University. He did his doctoral studies in earth science and geography at Ohio State University. Moving on to Penn State, he helped established the earth science and geography departments as world class entities. His recognition for his work originated with his appointment to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in WW II (the OSS was the forerunner of today's CIA).

I asked my father a couple of times if he knew what Willard did for the CIA, and quite bluntly he said "No", Willard couldn't (or wouldn't) tell him. My wife (Eileen) and I went with my father and mother to visit Willard and his wife Ruby at State College on what was about a year before they each passed away. It was in June near the end of the month. Willard was due at the CIA at the beginning of July for a skull session. Willard Miller was a prolific author and, along with Ruby as a co-author, published a host of text books. We visited their basement library first hand.

I never asked, but in Willard's day, graduate students were expected to also master a foreign language. I suspect Willard's was German which made the OSS a fitting employment for him.

When my wife was teaching at Rowan U in Glassboro, NJ, she learned that a colleague (Chet, with a name I can't spell or pronounce, may be it was Smolzik) was a Penn State graduate student under Willard Miller's guidance, along with Turkey City native Tom Leavy. Upon graduation, Chet and Tom each got a job teaching at Rowan (then Glassboro State). Chet stayed put; Tom departed for California (PA) and a doctoral degree from Pitt. Years later, Tom Leavy retired from Clarion U and settled near State College. Small world.

Speaking of academics

Saw where Mansield, Lock Haven, and Bloomsburg have teamed up as Commonwealth of Pa. University. I actually made non-academic visits to each of those institutions. I joined a fraternity brother on a hitchhike to Mansfield around Easter one spring only to learn that the school closed for a holiday vacation. Fortunately, some buddies rescued us in Smethport; we decided to detour into New York state where the drinking age was 18; then we returned to the county seat.

The Lock Haven trip also involved my fraternity as we loaded my 69 Ford Falcon with Phi Sigs and off we went to Clinton County for Clarion versus Lock Haven wrestling. Clarion was victorious. We detoured to Luigi's sub shop, a highly recommended local Lock Haven facility.

The trip to Bloom also involved college wrestling, though this time wife Eileen, myself, and another couple (one of my co-workers) all were attendees at the Eastern Wrestling League championships, the national qualifier. Kurt Angle, later an Olympic champ and pro, claimed a first place for Clarion. Angle was a beast at heavyweight.

Choking on sports

The Steelers will maintain their streak as long as Lily Tomlin is coach. They need fresh faces (notice plural) and fresh ideas. This 'Steelers Way' thing got old awhile ago. Penguins aren't giving us much hope. Are they? Spring training is two months away. I just hope O'Neill has a healed ankle!!


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