The e-mail from Carlisle Events' Communications Specialist Becky Kunzman was jarring-expected, unfortunately, but certainly not this soon.
"Elliot S. 'Chip' Miller passed away on March 25 at the Mayo Clinic at the age of 61. He was surrounded by loved ones in his final moments."
"Chip left this world 'without any pain,' his family said. "He had a smile on his face, which let us know he was happy to move forward on his journey to a much better place."
Chip Miller, co-founder and partner with Bill Miller (no relation) of the annual Corvettes at Carlisle show, was diagnosed with primary Amyloidosis, a rare plasma cell disorder that attacks the body's main organs, last December.
A native of Pennsylvania, Chip was a lifelong car enthusiast, with an especially intense love for Corvettes. In 1966, he married his high school sweetheart, Judy Lachman. In 1974, Chip and Bill Miller started the first automotive event in Carlisle. In 1981, Chip and Bill purchased the Carlisle Fairgrounds, and both then devoted their attention to Carlisle Events on a fulltime basis. Carlisle Events now puts on 12 automotive events each year. In 2003, over a half-million people came to events at the Carlisle Fairgrounds.
I never got to know Chip very well, but our few meetings were warm and cordial. He always seemed to be enjoying himself, having a great time, and happy to be doing something he truly loved. My memories of Chip are of a good, decent, and gracious man, and the events that he and Bill Miller organized and hosted were-and are-lots of fun and very participant friendly.
Chip's contributions to our hobby are immense, almost incalculable, and he will be sorely missed. I believe that he'll be remembered at least as much for the warm, decent, and friendly man he was, as he will as a giant in the hobby.
I'd like to let four people who knew Chip Miller well, his son Lance; contributor and former Corvette Fever Editor Richard F. Newton; writer and Corvette historian Walt Thurn; and Mike Yager, founder and chief cheerleader of Mid America Motorworks, offer their thoughts and memories about him.
Goodbye, Chip, requiescat in pace, you will be missed.
Life Is Good...Nothing less than the best! Life is goodThe memorial for my father was superb! I truly appreciate everyone who supported us through these times. I'm still amazed at how many people my father has touched throughout his life.
For those of you who weren't able to attend the service, I'd like to share my eulogy for my father's passing with you. Here it is:
I'm going to go over a few meaningful words that I feel describe my father best and give a brief description or story for each.
Thoughtful, Courageous, and Caring:From small things like picking up a piece of garbage that's lying on the ground and throwing it away or opening the car door for my Mom after dinner. To the bigger, more courageous things like having the doctors takes the medical IVs out of his arm to ensure that we, his loved ones, wouldn't have to see him suffer any longer than need be. And, on a brighter note, giving his beloved wife a 35th Anniversary Corvette with only 35 miles on their 35th wedding anniversary-that's special!
Thank you for being so thoughtful, courageous, and caring, Father.Love, Compassion, Integrity, and Expressiveness:
"Love" is a word many of us don't use frequently enough because we're unsure of others' reactions. Dad expressed this powerful word to his many loved ones with ease. Love is something much deeper than words could ever describe.
It's what we are all feeling right now in this room.
Thank you, Dad, we're feeling your love now and we will for eternity.
Thankful, Forgiving, and Sincerity:
Dad and I had many precious moments. I'd like to share a brief story with all of you.
About 20 years ago Dad took us out to dinner. We (Jenny, Evie, Mom, and myself) did this frequently. After dinner Mom said. "Let's go grab some ice cream." Needless to say, she had plenty of support from us kids. Dad wasn't being himself; he drove into the parking lot and right by the ice cream parlor. We thought he was going crazy! As we were all complaining, Dad said, "You guys never said 'thank you' for dinner. What makes you think you deserve ice cream for dessert?" This is one of the many lessons my father had taught us-be sure to say thank you. Never take anything for granted and always learn to forgive.
Dad was very grateful of his life and would mention it constantly. He's now thanking his buddy Bob Gold who was keeping his driver's seat warm in heaven; he'll be forever thankful.
"Life is good!" was one of my father's favorite quotes. Dad, thank you for all you have taught us; nothing will be taken for granted.
Honest, Driven, Successful, Strong, and Passionate:
Dad taught me that staying strong and being honest are the keys to success-whether it is in business, relationships, or simply life in general. Thanks, Dad, I live through your words of wisdom and will continue to do so.
I'd like to share a saying Dad and I would always make fun of when people would mention it, "He who dies with the most toys wins!" We used to kid about this saying all the time; we both knew it was the furthest thing from the truth. My father appreciated each and every "toy" he ever purchased, simply because he had a passion for cars. Dad lived it in every aspect of his life.
He promoted car shows. He was a car enthusiast. He breathed cars. He spoke about cars. He had car friends. He taught people about cars. He judged cars. He was a car legend. He loved Corvettes and all cars! The list could go on and on...
I'm as proud of my father's car collection as he was. He always thought long and hard about what cars he would purchase. It was like all of his decisions in life-each and every one was well thought out and implemented for a reason.
I'd like to change that saying we always made fun of to this, "He who dies with making the most positive impressions on other people's lives wins!" This is what my father lived by throughout his time here, and I will help him continue that legacy.
Gentle, Kind, Sensitive, Giving, Respectful, Fun-Loving, and Down to Earth:Dad was a popular guy for good reason-he accomplished a lot in his short but sweet life. He was easily approachable and he always enjoyed talking to others. He was sensitive to your needs; if you were hurt in any way, his shoulder was always there to cry on. Dad lived life to the fullest and mentioned it frequently.
One last story-I had a '90 R9G Corvette, one of 23 made, down in West Palm Beach, Florida, where I went to college. To make a long story short, I ended up totaling the car and almost killing myself! I called to let Dad know; immediately he asked if I was all right. I said yes. Then he let loose on me; it was the angriest I've ever heard him! Fortunately, my Mom was on the line as well; she calmed him down. Later that year, for my 21st birthday, my parents gave me a race car. Dad told me to enjoy it and race it in a controlled environment-the racetrack. Dad purchased a car, too, and we went racing together for a few years. They were some of the fondest memories Mom, Dad, and I shared together. This was much more than spoiling their son; it was a lesson I'll never forget!
Thank you, Dad, for all the fun-filled times. Special thanks for being a stand-up father, husband, brother, grandfather, uncle, and overall friend. We all love you!
Please keep my driver's seat warm while you're up there in heaven; I'll visit you when my time comes. In the meantime, I'll strive to be the man you always taught me to be. I'll make you proud, I promise!
We all love you and you will forever be a part of us. As I told you frequently, I love you and thank you for being my best friend and ultimate father. You will never be forgotten.
As my brother-in-law Duane said, "You are my hero!"
We Lost A FriendIt was about 3:00 in the morning and there was Chip Miller wandering through the garages at the Daytona Rolex 24, talking about Corvettes. He had more energy than any human deserved at that time in the morning. Then again, that was the Chip Miller we all knew and loved. It's also the Chip Miller we're going to miss.
Chip Miller had an idea for a car show in central Pennsylvania back in 1974. From this humble beginning he, along with his partner Bill Miller, built a series of the finest cars shows in the world. Chip's shows were always a little better than the others. More importantly, you were treated just a little nicer at his shows.
No matter what time of the day or night it was, Chip Miller was available to help you with a problem. We're going to miss that. When Chip passed away on March 25th, we all lost a friend.
Near the end, he and I were discussing the 2004 Corvette racing season. He said that one of the neatest things was to turn around in his chair and look at the C5-R that he had just purchased. He loved that car just as he loved all Corvettes.
No, he really loved the people who had developed and driven that car. Cars were simply plastic and metal. Chip Miller always thought about the incredible human creativity and energy involved in creating a Corvette. The car was simply a product of that human energy. It was the energy and creativity that Chip Miller loved most.
When we attend Corvettes at Carlisle this year, we all need to take a moment and reflect on the creative human spirit that was Chip Miller. We didn't just lose the owner of a car show. We lost a person that made us all just a little bit better.
Everyone who ever met Chip Miller came away from the experience wanting to be a little bit better. Just being around Chip Miller made you want to live your own life on a higher plane.
Every time you met Chip, you walked away vowing to treat people a little bit better. You quietly vowed to work just a little bit harder. You knew you could never be quite as good as Chip Miller-but at least you were going to try.
Life really isn't about what you accomplish here. Rather it's about what you leave behind. Chip Miller has left behind a large group of people that are a little bit better because of having known and worked with him.
Chip, thanks for the inspiration. It was great knowing you.
An Unforgettable Man With An Unforgettable SmileChip Miller left us on March 25, 2004. The shock of losing him is just beginning to sink into this writer's mind. Thinking about the Corvette hobby without Chip's smiling face and high energy leaves a huge hole in my heart. Chip was lean, active, and seemed healthy when he was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder called Amyloidosis. This disorder only affects about 2,000 people yearly worldwide, and there is no known cure. Chip was upbeat about his chances and felt positive he would somehow beat the odds. Sadly, he didn't. My heart goes out to Judy, his loving wife of 38 years; their children, Evelyn, Jennifer, and Lance; and several grandchildren.
I was among those fortunate enough to have a personal relationship with Chip. He and Judy owned a condo near my home in Florida. He, his good friend Bob Tomczak, and I would routinely meet for breakfasts on the beach. These cherished moments gave us an opportunity to strengthen our friendship. Chip never had an unkind word to say about anyone, and he was one of the most positive, passionate people that I have ever met. It was a joy to be in his presence and an honor to count him as one of my friends.
And don't forget his passion for cars. He loved anything on wheels, and he would talk constantly about this car or that car. Of course, he loved Corvettes, and his passion shaped the Corvette hobby. He bought his first Corvette at age 19. He and his business partner Bill Miller achieved great success with Carlisle Productions. This success allowed him to own over 80 Corvettes in his lifetime. He had a great collection of cars, but two of them put the biggest smiles on his face: his '60 Briggs Cunningham LeMans Corvette, which was restored by Kevin Mackay and his team at Corvette Repair, and his '01 C5-R, the factory race car that was co-driven by Dale Earnheart in the 2001 Daytona Rolex 24 hour race. Chip also loved his Corvette Challenge cars, which he vintage-raced with a passion.
Chip enjoyed racing Spec Fords with his son, Lance. After a race, I always took great pleasure in watching how animated he was about Lance's performance on the racetrack. It was a father's pride times 20. His hands would move through the air demonstrating a braking move his son made on a competitor, and his smile would light up the room. His love for his family had no bounds, and it really marked what kind of man he was to anyone who knew him.
When Chip became ill, his wife Judy discovered caringbridge.com. It was a Web site that allowed his many friends to communicate their love and concern for his recovery. Over 30,000 people visited the site during his illness. The response was just overwhelming. People who didn't even know him wrote him letters. Chip was actively involved with the site, and he loved reading the many responses. The theme of many of the letters was about Chip's ever-present smile.
Chip's family will be donating funds to Amyloid research. Before he left us, he asked his family to auction his '57 Corvette at the next Corvettes at Carlisle. This pristine car is valued at $75,000 and all proceeds will go to the Amyloid foundation. Memorial contributions can be made to:Chip Miller Charitable Foundation1000 Bryn Mawr Rd.Carlisle, PA 17013-1588
Chip touched people in a very special way. When he left us, he held up two fingers to his family in a peace sign and filled his face with the unforgettable Chip Miller smile.Rest in peace, friend.
Integrity, Respect, And A Great SmileI first met Chip, Judy, girls, and some redheaded boy back in July of 1974 in Atlanta during the NCC convention. I fell in love with a '67 coupe Chip and his friend Ken were showing in the concours competition.
From that day forward, my relationship with Chip, as well as our family relationship, has had many wonderful occasions.
Having attended drivers schools with the Miller family in Canada to attending many Carlisles, Bloomington Gold, and NCRS conventions, Chip's friendship and smile were always there.
Having had many family, Corvette, and race experiences with Chip, it is hard to limit myself to only a few comments. My most valuable Chip Miller experience and relationship is one that I will retain, practice, and pass on to all who can handle this tall responsibility. Chip was a person of integrity: always do the right thing; respect, treat all people as your equal; smile and speak to the person who greets you; hold life precious-but hold your friends even closer. Chip, I will endeavor to never forget the examples of integrity, respect, and your great smile; I will always have a warm smiling hello for all that I encounter in my life.
My other treasure is the one you always reminded me of when we met, spoke on the phone, or in our written communications. I need a hug.
In July of 1990, Chip and I had planned on meeting in Los Angeles to attend a Cars and Arts black tie event that would culminate with the two of us purchasing a '89 Corvette Challenge car from Bobby Carradine. Chip's trip was one of those horrible, all-day East-Coast to West-Coast trips. Chip arrived late, weary and frazzled from the often-delayed flight. When I greeted Chip as he exited the airport bus, I gave him one of my big hugs. Chip seemed just a little awkward at the moment and later explained that he had never been hugged by a male non-family member. From that point forward, Chip always had a great welcoming hug for me, Laurie, Michael, and Blake each time we met. He never let me forget that I was the one that taught him how real friends greet each other with a hug.
Although I will miss that hug, I will never forget Chip's comments to me when we had not seen each other in some time, "I'm in the need for a big hug."