Kathleen Westfall Miller and husband, Brook Miller - 2002
1931 GHS Graduate Kathleen Westfall - 1930
An Interview by: John D. Gainer
Fall was in the air and the humidity was heavy when I drove up to the home of Kathleen Westfall Miller and her husband, Brook, in Dunbar, West Virginia. Night was approaching quickly and I was anxious to meet and speak in person, to the interesting lady I talked with on the phone the night before. I was actually on an assignment from my brother Bill, the President of the Glenville High School Alumni Association. Bill had received a nice note from Kathleen a few weeks back informing him that she was a 1931 graduate of Glenville High School. Bill thought it might be enlightening to speak with Kathleen and write an article for the interest and enjoyment of all our Alumni. Once in a while my brother is right and this was one of those times.
I was met at the door by Kathleen who graciously invited me to come into the living room. As I entered the living room I saw Brook sitting in a chair. Brook immediately rose and greeted me and I was offered a seat. A quick observation of Kathleen and Brook made me want to ask for some identification, just to confirm that Kathleen was 92 and Brook, 97; because they certainly didn't look it to me! The twinkle in their eyes and their enthusiasm in talking about their many experiences belied their age. Regardless of their years on this earth, I soon concluded that Kathleen and Brook were very young at heart and full of life! For you ladies who have noted that Kathleen's face is without wrinkles.......she confided that she has always used Merle Norman cosmetics twice a day.
Kathleen quickly mentioned that she had grown up in a small town called Letter Gap, which was close to Glenville and asked if I knew where it was. I told her I certainly did and mentioned that I had grown up in the Glenville area too.
Kathleen mentioned to me that she had made a presentation at her church in 2000 about her life and allowed me to read it. I will reprint the presentation below. She very adequately describes her experiences.
My Life Story - by Kathleen Miller in 2000
I was born in Gilmer County, in a small community called Letter Gap, 7 miles from Glenville State College. My parents, were Lloyd and Allie Westfall. I was the 7th child born in a family of 9 children, 6 girls and 3 boys. We lived on a large farm, over 400 acres and in a large 10 room house. My dad raised cattle. Also there were horses, cows, hogs, chickens, dogs, and cats on this farm. There was no end to the work involved, but I had a happy childhood on this farm growing up.
We went to a one room school all through the eighth grade, where it was common to have 38-40 kids in one room. Most of my teachers were women, with a few men teachers in grade school. We had to help work on this farm. We hawed corn, worked in the hay field, milked cows, and fed the hogs and chickens. My job on Saturday a.m., was to saddle and bridle my horse and go on the hill and salt the cattle. There were long troughs to put the salt in. When the cattle saw me, they would start coming.
After grade school, then I went on to Glenville High School and graduated with a good report. I told my Dad I wanted to go to College that fall, for I wanted to be a teacher. At the end of 2 years, I had a Standard Normal Certificate and started to teach in a one room school. That's a 2 year degree then. I had to board away from home. It was a great education to teach in a one room school. Kids were good, I had discipline and respect. Some kids were much larger than I was, but I had no problem with them.
While I was teaching at a one room school and staying at home with Mom and Dad, I was walking home one evening and met Brook. Brook was visiting his family, caught up with me, and carried my books home for me. He went to my parents' home and met them. I had heard about Brook, but had not met him. This was the beginning of a 2 1/2 year courtship that led to our marriage on June 14, 1938, which has lasted for 62 years on June 14, 2000. He was working at Firestone in Akron then he got a better job at the AEP Company in Charleston, which lasted 35 years.
We got married in Ashland, Kentucky and we went on our honeymoon to Canada and Niagara Falls. We had a furnished apartment on Homer Street and that's when we started going to Emmanuel Baptist Church. Then we moved to Pennsylvania Avenue close to our friends, the Langfords. Beryl Langford was a State Policeman. We rented 2 1/2 years only. We bought our lot and built our home in Dunbar, where we still live. Our pastor at Emmanuel was Rev. Cannon, he was our pastor for 6-7 years. I was saved and baptized by Cannon and joined our church. Brook had been saved and baptized earlier at a country church. He joined our church. We had earlier been going to a United Brethren Church, where my parents went.
That fall after our wedding, I signed up to start substitute teaching in Kanawha County. I taught 5 years in all. I already knew 2 or 3 principals I had gone to college with at Glenville State, met many more, I enjoyed teaching. In the summer when Brook got 2 weeks vacation we went on vacations for we both loved traveling. In 1942 our son was born. Brook wanted a boy. I wanted a girl. Then 6 years later I had a beautiful little blonde haired girl. She is a teacher and lives in Plano, Texas. Our son, Don, lives in Denver, Colorado and works at a post office in Denver.
I will always remember our 4th anniversary, for I spent it in McMillan Hospital with our little son. I spent a lot of time home with my two children enjoying their growing up and then vacations at beaches mostly. When our son was in Cub Scouts, I was a Den Mother, all that time. We met in our basement. Other volunteer work I did was teach Sunday School at our church in the junior department, when the Withers were here. I worked at the Friendship Force a good while, then we later went to Gilsenkirk, Germany with them on a trip. I also worked in the Elections for 20 years as a Republican clerk. I quit after my stroke 10 years ago. I also was very active in AARP work for 20 years. I was Vice President for 6 years and held other offices. I taught Lawrence Frankel exercises after I retired at our church gym with Baird Carpenter for 3 years and then quit to travel. I have a Bachelors of Science degree in Education from Morris Harvey College, which is now the University of Charleston. I started back to teaching regular when Linda was 6 and Don was 12. I taught at Roxalana, Sattes, Ford and then I started regular at Grandview and taught 12 years there. I retired from Grandview.
In order to renew my teacher's certificate I either had to go back to school to get 6 hrs. or travel. I chose to travel. Brook was the only chauffeur. We went in 1962 out West to visit our son one week, he was in the Air Force. In Denver, we lived in a guest house for one week and went sight seeing during the day. We saw Pike's Peak and lots of other things there. Then I had to see 7 National Parks, Grand Canyon, Pikes Peak, Yellowstone, Brice and Zion in Utah and others. My educational trip had to be approved by the State Department of Education before and after. In 1967 I took a trip to the Southern States; D.C., Alabama, Louisiana, Florida, and Georgia. In 1969 my trip was to Canada, New England and Nova Scotia. Each trip was 1 month long. I had earned 9 hours of college in the 3 trips, very educational, but tiresome. Linda went with us in 1962. Brook was a great driver.
When I was 60, with 26 years of teaching, I told my principal I was going to retire and for him to get another teacher. He told me that I was too young to retire and asked what I was going to do. I told him that I was going to travel and we really did! In 1973 we started with Ina Webb Travel Club on a 24 day trip to Seattle, Washington and other interesting states on a Greyhound bus. Keyster Greene was our bus driver and he was a good one! This trip included Canada which we traveled in 4 Provinces of Canada.
We took many interesting trips. We have visited all 50 states, the last one being Alaska in 1982, for a month on a Greyhound bus. We have also been in 17 Foreign countries, our 40th anniversary we went on a Caribbean Cruise. We both loved to travel, but on December 20, 1990, I was sitting reading the paper and suddenly my paper fell and my right arm fell also, I had a stroke. I could still walk and talk, they called it mild, went to Dr. Linger next a.m. and on to the Charleston Memorial Hospital for 8 days. I was in the hospital over Christmas, the first time away from home on Christmas.
God was so good to us. He let us travel for 20 years after I retired until I had my stroke. That was the end of our travels. After my hospital stay and therapy for 8 days, I returned home. Brook was a wonderful nurse. He cooked, did laundry, and all kinds of work while I was recuperating. We have a swell cleaning lady whom we have had for 10 years. She is special. I had a physical therapist first, then changed to an occupational therapist for 3 months, a man, came to our home two times a week. I was doing better and went to church activities and other things also.
Ten months after I had my stroke, I had to have surgery for breast cancer. I had been losing weight but nothing showed up in lab tests. I couldn't believe this was happening to me, so soon after my stroke. My Dr. Linger was almost sure it was cancer, but where? After a visit with Dr. Joe White, a specialist, he ordered another mammogram and sure enough, it was cancer. My Dr. got an appointment with Dr. Edward Tiley a cancer specialist, the best doctor in Charleston. He set up my appointment for surgery.
I was on my bed praying and asking God why he was sending this on me, when I wasn't over my stroke and couldn't cope with this so soon. I was scheduled for surgery at 8:00 next a.m. God told me "I will be with you" he said it twice, loud and clear, so I got up, dressed and went to doing chores. The next a.m., surgery went excellent. After three days in Memorial I went home. Dr. Tiley was happy I did better than many women much younger than I was. Didn't have to have any treatments at all. He said I was smiling on my way to surgery. I have a check up once a year, he said he didn't think I would ever have any trouble. I depend on God a lot and he is first in my life, my Drs. are 2nd. and Family, which are so wonderful to me are next in my life.
On July 15, Saturday, here in the Fellowship Hall, God willing, we will have a birthday party. Brook will be 95 and I will be 90. It will be our 62nd anniversary. God still is in control. We depend on him. He will never leave or forsake us. We hope you all can come to our party 2-5 p.m., July 15th.
I'll add a few details about Kathleen's Gilmer County teaching experience.
I spoke with Mrs. Miller on the telephone on Sunday, October 20, 2002. Mrs. Miller was very lucid and talkative. She told me she was born August 13, 1910 at Letter Gap, in Gilmer County, the son of Lloyd Westfall and Allie Brown. (Lloyd Westfall was a first cousin to Shirley Westfall who lived at the end of the new bridge in Glenville. Shirley’s Father and Lloyd’s Father were brothers).
Mrs. Miller graduated from Glenville High School in the Class of 1931. She later went to Glenville State Normal School and graduated there in 1935 with a two year Standard Normal School degree. She then started teaching at one room schools in Gilmer County. Mrs. Miller said she taught at Big Bull Run School, near Copen; Spruce School; Walnut Grove School, near Letter Gap; and Bird School on Middle Run.
During her tenure at the Big Bull Run School, Mrs. Miller remembered that she would stay in the local area during the week and return home to Letter Gap on the weekends. To get home, Mrs. Miller would ride the train from Copen to Gilmer Station and her Father would then pick her up at Gilmer Station in his truck and take her home to Letter Gap.
When she got a teaching job closer home, at Walnut Grove; she said she either walked to school or rode a horse each day. Mrs. Miller also taught her nieces at the Walnut Grove school, but they were instructed to address her as "Mrs. Miller" and could not call her "Auntie" or otherwise get any special treatment.
Mrs. Miller said she taught a total of 5 years in the 4 schools. During the 5 years she stated that she had large classes, sometimes 40 kids in a class. She related that she never had a discipline problem the entire time she taught in the one room schools! She said the children were all well behaved and were serious about their education. She also remembered having a "pot bellied" stove in the schools that stood in the middle of the room to keep them warm on the cold and snowy winter days. She said the school hired a janitor for the school to tend the fire and perform other chores and paid him $20 a month.
However, as was often the case, Kathleen fell in love. She married Brook Miller on June 14, 1938 and moved to Charleston, West Virginia. Brook was also from Gilmer County, but he was working for the Appalachian Power Company in Charleston. After settling in Charleston, Mrs. Miller started substitute teaching in the local schools. (Mrs. Miller said her Father told her that after he put her through college that he expected she would get married and then not use her college education to teach. Kathleen said I told my Father that I would not do that, that I fully intended to teach, even if I got married) She also started attending Morris Harvey College (Presently the University of Charleston) at nights, on weekends and during the Summer months. In 1957, Mrs. Miller graduated from Morris Harvey with a four year degree in Elementary Education. She then started teaching in the Kanawha County School system full time. She taught at Sattes, Ford, Roxalana and retired at Grandview Elementary in 1972. Mrs. Miller said she had not intended on retiring then, but that her husband, Brook, had recently retired from Appalachian Power Company and they loved to travel. Brook was determined to travel and Kathleen was determined to go with him, so she retired from the Kanawha County School System with a total of 21 years teaching, including 16 years in Kanawha County.
Brook and Kathleen started traveling and did they ever travel! Seventeen foreign countries and every state in the United States. Mrs. Miller said that travel has been one of the real joys in their lives. They’ve been on cruises, spent about every summer, for many years, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and traveled to as many parts of the world as they could work into their busy "retired" schedules. Mrs. Miller related that for her continuing education credits, she used to tour the United States. She would submit an educational trip proposal and have it approved for continuing educational credit. Kathleen and Brook took three one month educational tours of the country over the years. On one they went to the New England area and into Nova Scotia, on one they went on a tour of the West and on the other they toured the South. On all the trips, Mrs. Miller kept notes on where they visited, where they stayed and what they saw as documentation of the trip.
Of their travels abroad, the Millers thought that Austria and Switzerland were very lovely countries. But, Brook Miller, always said that no matter how pretty the places were they traveled to, that none of them exceeded the beauty of West Virginia.
Over the years the Millers’ true love of traveling was only surpassed by their love for each other and for their two children. Linda Kay Miller Whelan lives and teaches in Plano, Texas and their son, Donald, works for the Post Office in Denver, Colorado.
Unfortunately their traveling was curtailed when Kathleen had a stroke on December 20, 1988. Kathleen had always enjoyed an excellent memory and asked the doctor what she could do to maintain her memory. The doctor advised her to read a lot and to work crossword puzzles. Kathleen starting reading a lot but never developed an interest in working the crossword puzzles. Although she lost some movement in her limbs, as a result of the stroke, her mind is strong and her recollect is clear today, almost 14 years after her stroke. Kathleen told me that when she went to school they were required to memorize all the Presidents, all the counties of the State and many other facts. Mrs. Miller advised she can still name the Presidents and the counties of the State today. She just turned 92 and she advised that she still keeps abreast of the workings of the educational system in Kanawha County. Her husband, Brook, is 97 and is still very active. Mrs. Miller said he still golf's, bowls and mows the lawn. They both are also active in their church. We are very hopeful that Brook and Kathleen Miller will attend the Glenville High School Reunion next summer!
**Kathleen is also the Great Aunt of Kenneth Fisher, one of our GHSAA Officers. Kathleen's sister was Kenny's Grandmother**
Brook is another interesting person with a story that has been told many times over the years. A fairly recent article by Sandy Wells in the Charleston Gazette can be read at the following link.....Brook Miller Interview by Sandy Wells in the Charleston Gazette, Feb 1995