Russell “Russ” Dean Miller, 79, of Billings went to be with his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ June 14, 2019 at his home. He was born on September 9, 1939 in Wilson, Kansas, the youngest child to Alexander and Lillian Miller. Russ graduated from St. John High School in St. John, Kansas in the class of 1957. He attended Emporia College in Emporia, Kansas and graduated in 1961 with a degree in Education.
His family traveled to Montana as they worked the wheat fields combining. He fell in love with the area and returned to teach school on the Crow Reservation at St. Xavier, and on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation at the Busby Boarding School. This is where he met his beloved Ella Akins and began their life together. From there, he maintained his passion for education. They began adventures of moving the family to teach on the Navajo Reservation in Shiprock, NM and Turtle Mountain Reservation in Belcourt, ND.
He returned “home” to Lame Deer, MT in 1971 and began working as the Service Unit Director at the Indian Health Service. Russ continued his education and received his Master’s Degree from Eastern Montana College. In 1979, Russ and family moved to Helena where he was the State Director of the National Health Service Corp., a position that he established in Montana. Russ continued to work in health care and recruited physicians for Indian Health Service, retiring in 1997. This passion for healthcare led to the founding Deering Clinic (now known as Riverstone Health) along with Dr. Frank Michael.
Russ had a passion for track and field. He competed at the collegiate level and became NCAA national Champion in javelin. This passion continued throughout his lifetime and he was able to compete in our Big Sky State Games where he competed year after year in several events. Later, he even spent two years coaching javelin for Skyview High School. He was an avid Denver Broncos fan and would never miss a game. In recent days, he spent a lot of his day with his special great grandson, Ezra Church, who called him “Bompa”. His other activities and passions included riding his motorcycle with his grandson Jordan and working on projects with him in the garage as well as shooting, hunting, fishing, canoeing, weightlifting, Black Russians, NFL Redzone, and playing softball for the Jimtown Coyotes. Russ never met a stranger, and never parted without telling a joke.
Russ was a man of deep faith. His daily routine included reading his Bible and meditating with prayer. Later in life, he began woodworking, in which he created several crosses and fish for family, friends, and organizations.
Russ is survived by his wife, Ella of 56 years; his sons: Michael, David and Dana (Lawretta) Miller, and daughter Michelle Harris; special grandson that he raised, Jordan (Morgan) Harris; sisters Norma Beitler and Marj (Bob) Littlejohn; brother Larry Miller; sisters-in-law Ella Muchaly Akins, Betty Streeter, Gloria Waters, and Karon Miller; special nephews and nieces Debra (John O.) Charette, Jana Waters, Angie McClure, and Aaron Miller. He also leaves behind grandchildren Lonnie (Shanaya), Kimberly, Erin (Garrett), Kole, Kirby (Myranda), James, Gina (Jesse), Alex, Christopher, Josh (Nicole), Tane, and Jacob; and great grandchildren James, Grayson, Ezra, Elijah, Aidan, Ashlyn, Camden, Yajaira, Jocelyn, Diego, Lucas, Dylan, Mikayla, Hailey, and Kyler.
Russ was preceded in death by his parents; brothers Dwayne and Al; brothers-in-law Arlo Beitler, Vernon Akins, and Floyd Waters; sister-in-law Jean Galey; nephews Floyd Waters, Jr., Andrew Miller, and Leslie Galey; and longtime companion Spike.
Visitation will be from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Wednesday June 19, 2019 at Heights Family Funeral Home. Funeral services for Russ will be at Mount Olive Lutheran Church in Billings on Thursday, June 20, 2019 at 11:00 a.m. Per his request, cremation will follow the funeral service and a private family inurnment will take place at a later date.