Stoughton- Michael A. "Mike" Miller, whose byline graced the pages of The Capital Times for more than 40 years, died on Saturday, January 19, 2013, at the age of 68, a victim of pancreatic cancer.
A native of Stoughton where he graduated from high school and excelled in sports, Mike worked as a reporter for The Capital Times from 1969 to 2009, when he retired to spend more time at his favorite pastime, golf. He had actually started work at the newspaper in 1965 when as a student at the UW-Madison he got a part-time job in the "dispatch" department, delivering proofs of ads to the advertisers for their final ok. That job quickly turned into a special one. He was tabbed by William T. Evjue, the founder and editor and publisher of the newspaper, to be his personal chauffeur, driving him on the editor's many trips around Dane County. Mike always insisted he was selected for the job because he was the only employee in the department who could speak Norwegian, an attribute near and dear to Mr. Evjue's heart.
Mike got his break to join the newsroom in 1969. His first byline was on a story about a giant spill at the UW's Babcock Hall that sent thousands of gallons of milk into Lake Mendota. Over the next 40 years Mike covered everything from the Legislature to the police. But, the bulk of those years was spent covering Dane County's courts, a beat that he not only loved, but at which he excelled. His coverage of some of the county's biggest murder trials became legendary, yet he also paid attention to the little stories as well - the human interest angles behind the scenes, the occasional retirements and promotions on his beat, the humorous anecdotes inside the courthouse walls. Dane County's judges came to trust Mike for never violating a confidence and only a few weeks ago when they learned of Mike's illness, they held a ceremony to name the pressroom in his honor, a permanent remembrance of the work he had done. News people young and old, along with dozens of courthouse workers and the chief justice of the State Supreme Court, attended the ceremony.
His versatile writing talent led him to author several April Fool's Day spoofs that appeared on the front page of the paper over the years. It included the draining of Lake Monona due to a work crew punching a hole in the bottom of the lake while driving pylons for Monona Terrace, the docking of the U.S.S. Wisconsin at the Union Terrace on Lake Mendota, and the city's "decision" to ban Friday night fish fries. He also annually produced fun stories on the start of the annual lutefisk dinner season, true to his proud Norwegian heritage.
At the age of 65, Mike took a retirement package, but not before he compiled an extensive history of The Capital Times and Mr. Evjue's struggle to keep it going in its early days that is a permanent fixture on the newspaper's website.
Mike was preceded in death by his parents, Paul and Lillian Miller of Stoughton and a brother, Charles. He is survived by two brothers, Robert (Jean) Miller of Stoughton and Jim, who is at the Veterans Home in King, Wis. Also surviving are four close nieces, Heidi Volker and Teresa Howell of Stoughton, Sheila Michael of Seattle, Wash., and Pam Goerl of Freedom, Wis., and Sue Lee and her son Jaime of Madison.
Memorial services will be held at 11:00 AM on Saturday, January 26, 2013 at Cress Funeral Home in Stoughton, with Mike's dear friends Dan Moeser, Dave Zweifel and Dennis Burke speaking. Friends and relatives are invited to a luncheon reception following the services at the Stoughton VFW Post 328.
A special thanks to the staff at the Agrace Hospice Center and to retired Circuit Court Judge Dan Moeser, a close childhood and Stoughton High School friend who was by Mike's side until the end.
Cress Funeral Service
206 W. Prospect Street
Stoughton, WI 53589