C-G assistant track coach Jim Miller passes away
One of Cary-Grove junior Ricky Hurley’s memories of throwing coach Jim Miller is from last spring when Miller, in pain and unable to walk without help, still was having fun.
“He was out there on the track in his wheelchair doing wheelies,” Hurley said.
At the time, Miller was exhausted physically, but mentally was upbeat. He and his wife Vicki believed his diagnosis for ALS – Lou Gehrig’s disease – was wrong and that he might actually have Lyme disease, which carries many of the same symptoms but is treatable.
While that thought gave the Millers hope for a while, the initial diagnosis was accurate. Miller’s condition grew worse over the summer and he was unable to continue teaching at C-G. He died Tuesday morning in his McHenry home at age 57.
Miller taught and coached in District 155 for 34 years. He coached in football, wrestling and in track and field. Miller grew up in Kohler, Wis. and played football and wrestled at Northwestern.
“There are a lot of people with heavy hearts,” C-G boys track and field coach Layne Holter said. “He had an impact on anyone he encounters. He wasn’t just a friend, but a mentor to many of us and did so many things. He deeply cared about kids, whether it was coaching or in P.E.”
Miller and Vicki were very active, enjoying biking and hiking and other outdoor activities. When he struggled last year with doing physical activities, he was most frustrated that they could not do things together.
Miller has been in hospice until recently when he was taken home for his last days.
“He meant everything [to the school],” C-G athletic director Jim Altendorf said. “He was in a wheelchair just before Christmas and some faculty from C-G got him in the wrestling room. I remember walking over to him and asking him how he was doing. He said, ‘I’m here doing what I was meant to do, coach.”
Visitation and funeral arrangements have not yet been made.
Miller started his teaching and coaching career with eight years at C-G. He moved to Crystal Lake Central for eight years, then back to C-G for the last 18. Two of his highlights as throws coach for track came in the last two years when Josh Freeman won the Class 3A state shot put and discus titles, then Hurley took fifth in discus and seventh in shot last year.
Freeman won the shot at the Pan-American Games in Colombia last summer and recently set the Missouri Valley Conference indoor shot put record.
“He was a very unselfish man,” Freeman said. “He cared about everyone. He wasn’t afraid to speak his mind and tell you the honest truth, and help you fix that you needed to fix. He was a very giving man. That’s what people are going to miss most.”
Miller used a cane, wheelchair and golf cart last spring while coaching C-G’s throwers. He was a powerful-looking man at 6-foot-2, 235 pounds who often rode his bike around town and was in top physical shape before he became ill.
“He held out to the very bitter end with a positive attitude,” Holter said. “He thought he was going to beat this thing. He looked forward to coming back this spring for track. The lifestyle he lived, to be trapped in a body that didn’t work with a mind that was sharp had to be difficult.”
Hurley is confident that although Miller is gone, he will not be forgotten.
“Everything he said will stick in my head through this whole season and the next,” Hurley said. “And probably through college.”
Freeman recalled his last conversation with Miller just after Christmas when the Bears played the Green Bay Packers.
“He was a Packers’ fan and we always used to bicker back and forth,” Freeman said. “We talked about the game, talked a little bit about football, we talked about throwing and my training.”