Michael Ray Miller (though saying his full name made him think you were REALLY mad at him)... also known as Mike, Bro, Dad, Biker Mike, Millerini, "Chef" Mike, and Yummy (more on these later), was born on November 23rd, 1960 in Fairfield, Texas to Ann "Carlene" and Kenneth Miller. He was born almost 3 whole minutes before his "Womb Mate" (aka twin sister) Sandi... who never let him live this down. He, his older brother Monty, and his "younger" sister Sandi grew up in Houston, Texas, attended Sharpstown High, and spent summers with their family and grandparents in Teague, Texas. A city boy at heart, he developed a deep love for the Texas countryside that would shine through later in his life.
In his younger years at Sharpstown High, Mike grew to love sports. Basketball and football were his first loves, but he soon found out his speed was his greatest asset, and that drew him to excel at track and field. Mike was always well liked, and stayed in touch with many of his high school friends throughout his entire life. He and his "womb mate" Sandi were known to be quite the dancers, especially in the disco era, moves that he was able to show off on many a cruise night! However, it was his older brother Monty that instilled in him a love for fast cars and possibly an affinity and the know-how for "sneaking out" with mom and dad's Buick.
After high school, Mike found his true lifelong passion in Travel. His first job was delivering tickets for a travel agency in Houston, where he soon worked his way up the ladder to becoming a travel agent. Company sponsored trips to Mexico and work retreats with his Mother, whom he loved dearly, solidified this passion and began a lifelong appetite to see the world.
In 1985 he moved to Albuquerque, NM to marry Helena Farina, and in January of that year joined the staff at Rio Grande Travel. In 1988, his son, Kenneth, was born and he discovered his newest passion, Fatherhood. Mike was always a dedicated father to his son, intent on being a better father than he knew. Over the years they became best friends, and Mike's pride in Kenneth's achievements was clear to anyone that knew him. Kenneth came to share his father's passion for cooking and traveling (he used to say that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree), and over time became a traveling companion for Mike. The adventures they shared around the world have created memories and stories that will be shared for years to come.
Mike continued on his path to success in the travel industry. During his nearly 33 years with RGT, he sold travel, developed the company's first IT department, and represented the company at many conferences and industry functions. His passion for travel and charismatic personality (aka the life of the party) led to many friendships in the industry stemming from these vacation conferences. Mike eventually became Vice-President, then President of Rio Grande Travel, after his instrumental role in several acquisitions and planning company growth in both corporate and vacation sales. During his years at RGT, Mike was an important supporter of the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta and the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, where he sponsored and played in many "Pasture Pool" (aka golf) tournaments to raise money and awareness for this tragic disease. In December of 2001, Mike and Jill Lane, organized a trip to New York. They filled a plane with supportive New Mexicans, spent a week touring the city, meeting with Mayor Rudy Guiliani, and Senator Domenici, and taking the group to Ground Zero for a Native American blessing ceremony. The "New Mexico Loves New York" trip has left a lasting impression on much of the community.
During the last 20 years, Mike continued his life as a "jet setter", helping plan and escort groups, such as the Bobby Box cruises, participating in Signature Network trips, and many other dream trips with his closest friends and family. In 2003, Mike and Jo Summers attended culinary school in Italy, fueling his new passion in pasta and cooking. Jo Summers has been Mike's partner in life for nearly 27 years, as well as business partner at RGT, and faithful travel companion. They met and lived in Albuquerque, and due to their mutual love of all things Italian, remodeled their home after a beautiful Italian Villa. Inside and out it was a true Italian experience, right down to Mike under the Italian arches in the kitchen, making homemade pasta from scratch, or spending hours smoking meat "Texas" style. Tons of family photos attest to his love of cooking, and their love of entertaining and hosting the most memorable family gatherings. Birthdays, anniversaries, even just get-togethers, found Mike "slaving away" in the kitchen, pacing back and forth until everything was perfect. He loved nothing more than creating an atmosphere where friends felt like family, and family could come from all over to share a few days of great food, great company, and unforgettable memories.
Mike had a knack for making everyone feel comfortable. His charisma and personality drew so many to become great friends, especially at his "home(s) away from home" in Albuquerque... Stoneface and Billy's. These were friends he would eventually travel with, golf with, and just sit around and "shoot the (you know what)" with. Whether it was weekend motorcycle rides with them and his son, or his after work wind down... everyone knew and loved "Yummy".
Even more prevalent than his love for Italy, was his love for his Country and the Great State of Texas, where he and Jo were able to move in 2015. Finally back in Texas, he PROUDLY planted 2 flags, his new watering hole: Hay's City Store and the Icehouse, and his beautiful country-side home in Driftwood, complete with his dream FRONT porch adorned with a massive American Flag. Mike unexpectedly passed on November 18th due to multiple complications in his cardiac system. He passed peacefully and without pain, bravely, in the comfort of the home he loved.
The overwhelming support and comfort we have received since Mike died, is a true testament to the profound impact he made in every community, both business and social. There are so many stories to share about Mike. For those of us closest to him, it is difficult to accept his early passing, but as he would say... "I had one hell of a ride."
He is survived by his son, Kenneth, his sister and her husband, Sandi and Ed Martin, his brother and his wife, Monty and Liz Miller, many family members and friends, and Jo... his life friend, loving partner, and travel companion, whose heart is truly broken, but grateful for having shared time with this wonderful and challenging man.
Mike's wishes for cremation will be honored and his ashes will be laid to rest with his Mother, in Teague, Texas and in Italy. Saluti, Mike.
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