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Funeral Services for Hal Miller Today at First Baptist Church

Owensboro icon Hal Miller is being laid to rest today.  Services begin at 11am this morning at First Baptist Church in downtown Owensboro.  And if yesterday’s visitation at Glenn Funeral Home is any indication, folks will be lining up in droves to pay their respects to and honor a man who, in many ways, touched us all.  As I was visiting with Hal’s daughters Rooster and Karen yesterday,  it occurred to me just how many memories of Windy Hollow I personally carry.  And I know that many of you have memories that are just as fond. I want to share a few of mine.

Official Memorial Card/Miller Family

My family loved Windy Hollow Restaurant.  Who’s didn’t?  Right?  But as a kid, I was less enthralled by the food as I was Hal’s collection of World War II memorabilia and the bits of pieces of Hollywood westerns he showcased.  But my most vivid memory of the restaurant is of that “trick” mirror that used to sit in the lobby.  At least I think it was the lobby.  Was it the lobby?  And do you all remember it too?  I just remember it taking my scrawny little body and making it appear rather warped, short and stubby!  And this was BEFORE I ate.  I can only imagine how I must have looked AFTER dinner.  We loved standing in front of that mirror.  It was total circus sideshow and we laughed every time.

I also have vivid memories of the Windy Hollow Campground.  We used to camp a lot when I was younger.  And Windy Hollow was one of my favorite stops.  It seems there were always a bunch of other kids camping there too and we had a blast.  In fact, I have three very vivid Windy Hollow memories that are still with me today.

1)  I remember a HUGE game of kickball.  I honestly couldn’t tell you the names of any of the other kids there (except Kathy.  I remember a girl named Kathy).  But we rallied up under the one of the shelters, playground-picked our teams and it was on!  I have no idea if my team won or lost but that game was my “Sandlot.”  It was our World Series.  That kickball game was epic and I will literally never forget it.

2) I also remember riding out a tornado warning at Windy Hollow once.  I don’t remember much about how the storm approached.  This was WAY before we had Wayne Hart to rely on.  But I remember massive winds hitting the campground and actually flipping some of the campers (not the people . . . but the campers the people were in).  Ours was spared.  But I distinctly remember walking through the campground to make sure everyone was okay.  It sounds kinda scary . . . but I would relive that moment in a heartbeat.  Honestly, I think in many ways, that night is where I acquired the thirst for storm-chasing.  The skies were black.  The clouds were swirling.  Our parents were scared to death.  And I was loving every minute of it.

3) And my absolute most vivid memory of Windy Hollow doesn’t really involve camping at all.  Well, just in the sense that in the summer of 1982 I was sitting inside our camper watching television.  And how we had television?  I couldn’t tell you.  But I am pretty sure it was black and white, but somehow we got enough reception to pick up local channels.  And, there I was . . . stuck in front of it.  While my friends were running around the campground playing Pitch and Catch, Hide ‘n’ Seek and maybe Spin the Bottle (lol), I was glued to the TV.  I was watching the epic Wimbledon final between John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors.  It was a five set war that Connors won.  It was Jimmy’s second Wimbledon crown and, as history would have it, his last.  But, for me, it was my first.  The first tennis match I ever watched from start to finish.  My love for tennis, which is truly a passion and something I honestly live for, was born inside a camper at Windy Hollow.  To this day, I sit inside my house and watch tennis . . . for hours and hours at a time.  I have traveled to tournaments all over the USA and follow the sport religiously, fanatically.  And, as fate would have it, I just finished Jimmy Connors’ autobiography.  And it recalled that Wimbledon final in detail.  And I remembered every one.

In some random way, I have Hal Miller to thank for that.  In fact, looking back, I have Hal Miller and his family to thank for a lot.  Some of my best memories are centered around them and only now can truly realize and appreciate it.

I paid my respects to Hal and his family yesterday and was a bit taken when Rooster and Karen thanked me for coming.  But, I should be thanking them.  It’s an honor to be tied to the Miller family and just one degree separated from the man who created this awesome second home and community for our town and the kids growing up in it.

Hal Miller may be laid to rest today, but our memories of him will flourish a lifetime.

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