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A Legacy of Giving

During his final weeks of life, R. Bruce Miller, Sr. fulfilled his long-time goal of establishing an endowed scholarship to support local students in need.

By Susan Field

As long as Robert Miller can remember, his late father, R. Bruce Miller, Sr., of Stroudsburg, talked about the importance of providing access to education for the less fortunate.

“He always believed in giving and philanthropy. He supported charities that he felt did the most good in the community,” Rob said. “He always said that the best way to help the underprivileged in any community is to encourage their education.”

While he was still in good health, Rob’s father, Bruce, talked about his desire to donate money to ESU for a scholarship. After he got sick and was in his final weeks of life last spring, he prioritized moving forward with plans to support a local student’s education.

The Jean and R. Bruce Miller Endowed Scholarship, in honor of Bruce and his late wife, was created through the ESU Foundation shortly before Bruce’s passing on April 29.

“He felt good knowing that the details were worked out and this was going to be a long-lasting benefit to students—forever,” Rob said. “My parents were so generous and kind. No one would ever have a bad word to say about either of them. It was important for them to leave this legacy to continue their spirit of giving.”
Having experienced hardship and financial struggle growing up during The Great Depression-era played a role in Bruce’s desire to help those in need. Born in 1926 in Ephrata, a borough of Lancaster County, Bruce grew up in Bethlehem, in the heart of the Lehigh Valley.

In high school, Bruce was active in the Hi-Y Club, a social club a liated with the YMCA, band, wrestling and track programs. Wanting to support America in the war e ort, Bruce enlisted in the Naval College Program, where he attended after graduating from Bethlehem Liberty High School in 1944. Through the G.I. Bill, Bruce attended Muhlenberg College in Allentown, the Case School (Case Western Reserve) in Cleveland, Ohio, and Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago.

In war times, he was stationed in San Diego and served aboard the USS Menard (APA- 201). Afterward, Bruce returned to Muhlenberg and graduated in 1948 with a degree in economics.

Bruce considered himself fortunate to have the opportunity to receive education support through the G.I. Bill, which is one reason he felt strongly about giving others a similar opportunity to access education. “He felt that a lot of people wouldn’t even pursue an education because they would be worried about economic barriers,” Rob said.

After the war, Bruce worked for Atlantic Refining Co. and Gulf Oil for 12 years in wholesale petroleum sales. In 1959, when one of his wholesale clients, Harold Sti , passed away, Bruce purchased his heating oil distribution business from Sti ’s widow, Catherine. The business was based in Stroudsburg, where Bruce moved to operate Sti  Oil Company out of its 161 N. 2nd St. location, where it remains today. Bruce served as President and Vice President of the company for the next 63 years of his life.

While in Stroudsburg, Bruce met Jean Blair, widow of Edward T. Blair, who died from injuries incurred in the Korean Conflict. She had two sons, Ed and Tom. Bruce and Jean married in 1968, and Rob, was born in 1970.

“When my father married my mother, my brothers were 12 and 13. He took the role of being in their lives very seriously. He never wanted to impose his will on anybody — he never formally adopted them — but he treated them as his own, and he treated us all equally,” Rob said.

Bruce and Jean, who shared 54 years of marriage, led active, full lives centered around family and community. 

Jean, born in 1927, was a lifetime resident of Monroe County and a graduate of Stroudsburg High School. Prior to becoming a homemaker, she worked as a secretary at Rinker, Kiefer, and Rake in Stroudsburg, New York Life Insurance Company, and was a Kelly Girl for Kelly O ce Services. (The term “Kelly Girl” gained national recognition and became synonymous with quality temporary sta ng in the 1950s).

Over the years, Bruce and Jean’s family expanded, welcoming seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. The couple was devoted to their family and loved spending time with them. Bruce enjoyed watching his grandkids play sports and other activities, and Jean enjoyed cooking and baking for them.

“My mom was the best cook in the world! She made the best chicken à la king and stu ed peppers. She was known for making Pennsylvania Dutch specialties: shoofly pie, and pumpkin and apple pie,” Rob said.

Rob describes his parents as having a great marriage, but they were very independent people—attending separate churches, and pursuing their own interests—yet always coming together to support each other for events and activities.

Jean was a life-long member of Zion United Church of Christ in Stroudsburg, where she served as president of the Women’s Guild, taught Sunday School, and was a member of the Consistory, the governing body of the church. Bruce was a member of Stroudsburg Methodist Church, where he was active as a trustee, served on the finance committee, and was head usher for many years.

Bruce was active in the community as an o cer in Jaycees, the United States Junior Chamber, a leadership training and civic organization. He chaired committees of the American Cancer Society, the United Way, and the Red Cross. He was a long-time member of the Elks, Masons, and the Knights of Malta.

The couple supported many causes, including their churches, Big Brothers Big Sisters, the United Way, Salvation Army, and American Cancer Society, among others. Bruce’s dedication to the family business was an important part of his life. In 1996, he had the opportunity to buy a competitor, but decided he’d only do it if he had more help. At this time, Rob bought the company from his father, becoming president, and made the acquisition of the competitor, doubling the size of the business. Bruce transitioned into the vice president’s role and remained integral in operations. He continued to drive trucks for the company into his 70s, and continued to work into his 90s.

“He was sharp as a tack. He would be at work from 6 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. He would leave for a cup of tea mid-morning and a half hour for lunch. He would stop in the o ce on weekends,” Rob said. “He worked a lot, but he also believed in getting away. My parents loved to travel. Family vacations were important for as long as I can remember.” The family traveled to Arizona, New Mexico, California, and Europe.

“After I stopped vacationing with the family, my dad and mom continued traveling for as long as they could get around well,” Rob added. “Prague and Alaska were two trips they really enjoyed.”

Bruce also enjoyed staying active by playing golf at Glen Brook Golf Club in Stroudsburg, and Terra Greens Golf Club in East Stroudsburg. When Rob was a young boy, Bruce would take him to the ESU track to walk and jog, as part of a cardiac health fitness initiative program for the community.

Rob remembers that though his parents were kind, they weren’t soft— they were strong-willed, tough, resilient individuals. They resisted aging and lived on their own until eventually moving into Spring Village Assisted Living, across the street from ESU, in May 2021.

In September 2021, Jean passed away, just shy of her 94th birthday. Bruce remained active in the family business up until two weeks before his death at age 95. In their names, the Jean and R. Bruce Miller Endowed Scholarship will support a student in need, and continue a legacy of benevolence.

“I’m proud of that legacy,” Rob said, “It embodies their spirit of giving and generosity.”

In the US Navy, R. Bruce Miller, Sr. served in San Diego and aboard the USS Menard.

Jean and R. Bruce Miller, Sr. shared 54 years of marriage.

Robert Miller, his wife Laurie, right, and daughter Katie, at their home in Stroudsburg. The Jean and R. Bruce Miller Endowed Scholarship was created upon his father’s desire to give back to ESU students in need. (Photo by Susie Forrester)