Vance C. Miller’s death this month after a short illness was a profound event in my personal lifecycle, along with being a historical moment for Texas’ commercial real estate community.
Vance and I shared 40 years of friendship, both personal and professional, and shared those moments mostly during our obligatory meetings every Tuesday evening at the Prestonwood Country Club: 2,080 meetings!
We visited during the good cycles and bad cycles, through tough times, company transitions, personal tragedies, business deals, family issues, and everything else that we experienced in life. With us, no topic was off limits, and, more important, we trusted each other knowing that all of our discussions never entered the public domain!
So, ladies and gentlemen, how many of you have experienced such a unique event in your lives, and how many friends/family members do you have with whom you can enjoy a similar experience? Fortunately, I’m lucky enough to have more than one, but true friendship is tough to find.
Trying to give others a glimpse into the life of a great friend, a great family man, an inspirational leader, a powerful community advocate and a successful businessman in a five-minute eulogy was a task I could not hope to accomplish. Add to this the fact that he was a very private man, and you can understand my anxiety in even attempting it.
Few people really knew Vance C. Miller, but those who knew the private man will tell you how generous he was to his family, friends, and his company. His “bark” had no bite, he was loyal to a fault (he always wanted to be sure that we gave a person every chance to be rehabilitated, at any cost, if necessary), and never complained nor “whined” about anything. He was probably the most positive individual I ever met.
It was during one of those Tuesday evening meetings when he and I decided to “gather the troops” and bring back the Miller Company! When we announced it, many of the Miller ex’s who had left the company during the Grubb & Ellis buyout in the early ’80s, came back to roost. They had missed the wonderful, entrepreneurial environment that we had enjoyed at the “old Miller Company.”
We recreated that same atmosphere, and helped Vance rebuild the company as he had before. To know him was to love him; but you had to “know” him—not many ever got inside this very private man.
Quick anecdote to finish: I don’t think I can ever remember knowing someone who never complained! In 40 YEARS I never heard Vance C. Miller complain about anything. About a month before he passed, I walked into his office one morning after his arrival, as I always did, took a good hard look at him and said, “Vance, how do you feel?” He said, “Sam, I’m not feeling so good today.”
It took a while for me to realize what had just happened, and when it finally registered, I looked at him and said, “Vance, this is the first time in the 40 years I’ve known you that you have actually filed a complaint with me!” He said, “Well, that’s the first and last complaint you’ll ever hear from me.” And, it was.
Sam Kartalis is president and chief operating officer of Henry S. Miller Realty Services LLC. Contact him at email@example.com.