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Al M., sober December 1, 1973
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May 22, 1931-September 21, 2000
of our Archives Committee, his quiet, reassuring
presence was always there, and gave us strength. We will
all of us miss him more than we can say.
N. (Syracuse, Indiana), our Area 22 Northern Indiana
Archivist, has written this memorial of his sponsor
Big Al Miller. Big Al lived in Milford IN, a small town
on State Road 15 in Kosciusko county. He was born on
May 22, 1931 and died on September 21, 2000; he got
sober on Dec. 1, 1973. Big Al became a member of the
Area 22 Archives Committee during the formative period
which began in the mid-1990's, when a devoted group
first began working together to collect archival materials
in much more systematic fashion for our recently-created
Area 22 organization.
this crucial period, when the committee members were
attending national A.A. archives workshops, establishing
this bulletin, putting on local workshops, sorting through
numerous cardboard boxes of old documents, learning
how to preserve these fragile pieces of paper, creating
displays for conferences, and searching for a central
repository, Big Al was always there helping out.
Al's father, Sunshine Miller, was one of the real old-timers
in the A.A. program in the north central part of Indiana.
For those who would like to hear his voice too, one of
Sunshine's leads was tape-recorded and a copy is preserved
in the Elkhart Central Service Office as well as my own
tape files. Big Al did not really get to know his father
until he himself came into the program; this was one of
the many good things which A.A. gave him for which he
was extremely grateful. -- G.C.
Big Al was such an active and important part of the Archives
Committee of Area 22, along with many other areas of service,
it was agreed some special mention should be made of his
passing, and the part he played in so many lives that had
become entwined with his. Since this writer had become more
than just another one of his pigeons, and more like the
brother he never had, I thought I could give some insight
into what kind of person he was and what his influence was
on so many, and reflect on how much he meant to so many
difficult part is to summarize the life of any one person
into a few short lines. It is like the inscription on a
headstone where we find written the date of birth, a line,
and then the date of death:
bare, unadorned line between representing the life of the
person entombed therein. It gives no insight into their
character or deeds, and leads future generations to wonder
what kind of person they really were.
of what follows will focus mostly on Al's last fifteen years,
as this seems to me to be the period when he truly blossomed.
These were the years of his greatest influence on others,
when he found the fulfillment of his innermost hopes and
dreams for himself. Much is gleaned from the leads he gave,
along with considerable personal conversation and acquaintance
with some family members. It is also written from the perspective
of what he did for us who knew him which made him so special.
of his character can be gleaned from his delight when some
jokingly called him "Nasty Al," because in fact
everyone knew about his big heart, his dedication to service
work, and his generosity. He was a big bear of a man, and
yet gentle as a kitten, being ever mindful lest he hurt
anyone's feelings, and sometimes keeping opinions to himself
for the sake of the situation.
came from a broken home as a young child, which may not
seem unusual today, but in those days was not common. It
had quite an influence on his formative years and carried
over into his adult life. As a child and young man, he was
mostly a loner. Because of this, he had many problems adjusting
to society later in life. He had always wanted to be a "part
of," but because of these influences and what we now
term low self-esteem, was unable to find fulfillment until
he began to be affected in Alcoholic Anonymous by those
he met and what he learned. By his own admission, the effects
did not take hold for many years.
to his becoming active in A.A. and service work, he had
met and married his second wife. This turned out to be a
major factor in his growth. He had always wanted family
and love, and although he had now found both, at first he
still found it difficult to accept deep down inside. He
confided that it was only when he finally came to understand
that their caring for him was genuine, that he was able
to feel that he "belonged," and at last had the
love he had always hoped for.
his early years in A.A. he had problems understanding how
much his low self-esteem pulled him down, and then overcoming
it. Although he had received guidance from his father Sunshine
Miller (who had thirty-seven years in the fellowship when
he died), and although he was in fact well respected for
his wisdom and knowledge, none of this quite clicked. After
about twelve years, he began attending meetings on a more
regular basis, and taking part in them more. From that point,
many of his fears, doubts, and anxieties began to fall away
as he continued to participate and learn.
of the great lessons he always tried to pass on, was one
he himself learned when he heard the long form of the Serenity
Prayer after a number of years, and noticed what was actually
promised in the last sentence:
grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom
to know the difference.
one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting
hardship as a pathway to peace.
this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it, as
God's people have always done; trusting that He will make
all things right if I surrender to His will.
that I may be reasonably happy in this world and supremely
happy with Him in the world above.
phrase "a reasonable amount of happiness" was
one he used over and over again when talking to newcomers,
since we all seem to want absolutely perfect happiness,
with nothing at all ever going wrong, on a full-time basis.
was always quick to point out to newcomers, who were his
favorites, how much difficulty he had in his early years
from his poor reading abilities. He had slowly learned to
read much better, and he showed them that they could also
do so without shame. These are only a couple of the many
things he shared.
was he special? Because he epitomized what we in A.A. always
preach the most: that which we gain which is worth keeping
is that which we give away freely. This was summed up in
all his activity in service work. It was more than just
doing all the twelfth-step work which he was so known for.
It was the love and devotion in all of his service work,
which he worked so hard on, the satisfaction he got from
it, and which he successfully passed on to those who followed.
This is what it's all about: that which we find must be
passed on to those who follow so that our legacy may continue
to live and flourish.
is the life of a special person and their effect on others.
Stories about Big Al and remembrances continue, along with
constant references and memories that have outlasted him.
Those who are still being influenced by him continue to
comment on things he said and did.
he that special? Was he a great "guru" (something
he often made clear that he neither liked nor ever wanted
to become)? No, he simply epitomized what all of us in A.A.
should endeavor to become and pass on. He will continue
to live on in the hearts and minds of those of us who knew
him in the flesh, and even when we in turn are gone, the
legacy of the big gentle bear must then be passed on by
those who will know him only as one of the many A.A. legends
about the good old-timers from the days of old.