The mother of slain Matthew Miller, a loving son, husband and father, is creating a `pay-to-play’ fund in his name to help high-schoolers participate in sports and turn away from violence.
GABRIELLE FIMBRES Citizen Staff Writer
Every day, Stevan Miller wonders where his daddy has gone.
The 3-year-old doesn’t understand why Daddy isn’t there to play football or read him a story.
Stevan doesn’t understand that his father was the victim of a violent slaying and is never coming home again.
Stevan’s father, Matt Miller, loved life.
The handsome young man adored his wife and was enthralled with his young son.
He had plenty of friends and enjoyed spending time with them.
But football was his lifelong love, and Miller couldn’t get enough of playing it and watching it on TV.
Miller’s family and friends are left with only their memories of the young man. Miller, 24, was shot to death during an argument at a friend’s apartment last year.
It is difficult to find anything good in the violent death of the young man.
But his mother, Pat Miller, is determined to help young people in her son’s name.
Pat Miller has set up a fund at Amphi High School, where Matt graduated in 1989. The Matt Miller Memorial Fund will help students who cannot afford the $20 fee required to participate in sports.
“Matt loved football, and he loved kids,’ she said. “I tried to think of a way to honor Matt and to help somebody else pour themselves into something other than violence.’
The fund may be used by boys and girls to pay the fees for any sport at Amphi.
“I think this would make Matt happy,’ Pat Miller remarked.
Pat Miller and husband Fred were so proud of their “baby’ – the youngest of seven children.
Matt joined his first football team at 11, and his dad never missed a game. At Amphi, the young man played both offense and defense.
After high school, Miller enrolled at Pima Community College, but later left to work full time as a dairy manager and later as frozen foods manager at Smith’s Food and Drug Store.
He then met the love of his life, Monikaya. The two soon married, and Stevan was born.
After the birth of their baby, both parents needed to continue to work, but they didn’t want the baby spending his days in day care. So Matt worked the night shift and stayed home with his son.
“Matt and Stevan were constant companions,’ Pat Miller said. “They played ball a lot, and Stevan loved to wrestle on the floor with his dad. And Matt was always reading to him.’
At the time of his death, Matt was attending Pima full time, studying to become a drafting engineer. He was also working toward another dream, one he’d had since childhood.
“He had gone back to working out at a gym, and was getting his body built up,’ his mother said. “He was going to try out for the (Phoenix) Cardinals.’
And Matt and his wife hoped eventually to have more children, Pat Miller said.
But the dreams of this young man were destroyed last October when he was slain. Now his family waits for the trial of the man accused in the killing, scheduled to begin this month.
The Citizen is not using the suspect’s name, because of concerns by the Miller family that publicity could interfere with jury selection.
Pat Miller said her family’s loss is enormous.
Monikaya left Tucson with Stevan and lives in California.
“She just doesn’t know what to do with herself,’ Miller said. “She just couldn’t handle being near the constant reminders of Matthew.’
And Stevan is lost without his father, she said.
“Fifteen or 20 times a day he wants to know where his father is,’ Miller said, wiping tears from her eyes.
This weekend, the family will gather on the banks of Paint Creek in Chillicothe, Ohio. Matt’s family will scatter the young man’s ashes at the creek where he played and fished as a boy.
Miller said her son was truly a happy man.
“He loved life,’ she said, with a smile. “He loved people. He was happiest when he was helping others.
“It was such a waste,’ she said. “I can’t think of any good reason for someone to take a person’s life. But hopefully, the memorial fund will bring some good out of it. It will give young people something to do rather than get in trouble – a good way to channel their energy.’
This isn’t the first time the Miller family has been touched by tragedy. The Millers’ oldest son, Steven, died of a heart attack at age 32 in 1986.
In the weeks before Matt’s death, Pat Miller was haunted with a fear that something might happen to her youngest child.
“I thought, `Oh, no, God wouldn’t take another one of our children.’ But he did.’
Miller hopes Citizen readers will contribute to the fund, keeping Matt’s spirit alive through the successes of other young people. And she says many families in the Amphi district truly do not have $20 to spare for sports.
“Even if you don’t have a child in Amphi, and even if you can only donate $1 or $2, if enough people donate, then eventually that $20 will be there for that kid who needs guidance in his or her life,’ she remarked. “We’ve got to do this. Our children are our greatest treasures.’
Anyone wishing to donate to the Matt Miller Memorial Fund may send a contribution in care of John Ryan, Amphi High School, 125 W. Yavapai Road, Tucson 85705. Any Amphi student interested in applying for a sports grant may inquire at the school’s bookstore.
PHOTO: VAL CANEZ/Tucson Citizen/Pat Miller with a photo of her son, Matt (also pictured at far left).