A small brown suitcase in the archives of the Shafer Museum holds the birth records of Dr. John Melzacher: Baby Boy Miller, born March 29, 1939, to Mary and George Miller at home at the confluence of Boulder Creek and the Chewuch River.
Carl, a rough-and-tumble little boy, spent his childhood with two older brothers, Ross and Swede, and little brother Claude. Living in the Methow Valley gave him the rare opportunity to grow up in a place that was behind the times. His family lived off-grid and relied on horse power for farming and ranching. Their years living on Beaver Creek near Pipestone Canyon contributed to Carl’s lifelong love of nature and sense of place.
Carl’s inquisitive mind led to an appreciation of the written word. He graduated from Twisp High School in 1957 and attended Washington State University, where his interests in history and philosophy were developed.
He married Sandra Magers, of the Twisp River country, on Dec. 15, 1958. This union gifted him with three lovely daughters, Melany, Libby and Marcy. The family moved to Odessa, Washington, where Carl became a top hand on the King Ranch, then to Spokane where he worked in the construction trade, and began his career as a City of Spokane firefighter.
Carl and Roxie Bryan Oens, of the Colville Valley, were married on July 12, 1973. Roxie brought three more children into his life, Sharyl, Craig and Diane. Six children could have been a daunting chore. However, Carl, a caring father and stepfather, was sure he could manage.
His 27-year career as a firefighter brought him great satisfaction. He retired as a captain and incident commander. After retiring and putting 28,000 miles on their Ford truck and camper, Carl and Roxie moved to the Methow Valley in September 1994 to start a new chapter in their lives.
If one stands looking at Carl’s hat rack, it tells the story of his life.
The battered old Stetson tells you about his love of family tradition, horses and grandpa “adventures” with grandchildren.
The well-worn bike helmet speaks to miles of travel to and from his fire stations. It tells stories of biking vacations with family and friends throughout the United States and Canada and an “illegal pedal” into Mexico.
The old cap worn under a canoe helmet attests to his canoeing skills in class 3-plus rapids and his enjoyment of beautiful slow floats throughout U.S. waters.
The brightly colored “cowboy hat” given to him in Peru by an outfitter guide sparked curiosity and conversation as he skied the trails of Mt. Spokane and the Methow Valley.
The Methow Conservancy hat with its green leaf logo caused some consternation when he said the leaf looked like “a dead green mouse,” but he wore it proudly.
The Kiwanian hat gave him the opportunity to work for and with children, a commitment that always enriched his life.
And, finally, that scratched and dented hardhat he wore when he built four homes for his family. That one saw countless hours in recent years working with the “Rusty Metal Gang” at the Shafer Museum.
Carl, 81, passed peacefully at Cornerstone Court in Spokane on Dec. 12, 2020. He will be remembered for his joy of life, good works, great stories and his love for family, friends and the Methow Valley.
He is survived by his wife, Roxie Miller, and six children, Melany (Keith) Hovda, Libby Lindquist, Marcy Romans, Sharyl (Kent) Read, Craig (Kathy) Oens and Diane Oens. Also surviving are his brother Claude; nine grandchildren, Nyssa (Chris) Benesch, Kegan Hovda, Darren (Sharon) Lindquist, Arren Lindquist, Nathan (Sarah) Romans, Nick Romans, David (Nikki) Read, Amber (Brian) Jarman and Robert Oens; three great-granddaughters, Unittie Lindquist, Izabella Romans and Madeline Jarman, and two great-grandsons, Henry Romans and Gabriel Jarman. His family tree also includes the many children and grandchildren of his brothers Ross, Swede and Claude, as well as his Miller and Dammann cousins.
Carl was preceded in death by his former wife, Sandra Magers Miller; by his parents George and Mary (Dammann) Miller; two brothers, Ross and Swede Miller; sisters-in-law Elaine Miller, Mikell Nelson Miller, and Patricia Miller and son-in-law Dean Lindquist.
Carl was interred at Sullivan Cemetery in Winthrop on Dec. 21, 2020. A Celebration of Life will be held in 2021. Gifts in his memory are to be given to a nonprofit of your choice.