Pam Eckard took a break from watering plants at Brown's Orchards & Farm Market Saturday morning to share memories of Loganville Volunteer Fire Chief Rodney Paul Miller, who died hours earlier after being struck by a vehicle on Interstate 83.
As Eckard spoke, tears trailed down her cheeks, her eyes hidden by sunglasses.
She was shaken.
"(Friday) was the first time I had seen him in a month," Eckard said. "He came up, gave me a big bear hug and a kiss on the cheek."
That was Miller, she said. "He was definitely a hugger."
She called him a sweetheart and said he was always smiling.
"He just always seemed
to be so happy," Eckard said.
Eckard said a friend sent her a text message early Saturday morning indicating Miller had been struck by a vehicle while he was directing traffic on the highway.
State police confirmed that Miller was directing traffic off I-83 south in the area of the Glen Rock exit following an earlier crash. Police said Matthew Scott Diehl, 32, of Shrewsbury, drove his white Chevrolet Trailblazer around Miller's parked emergency vehicle and struck Miller.
Police said the emergency lights on Miller's vehicle were flashing at the time. They noted that Diehl continued driving south after striking Miller.
Police charged Diehl with homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence and related charges.
Firefighters remained at Loganville Volunteer Fire Company throughout the day Saturday, gathering together in their grief.
Don Eberly, the president of Loganville Volunteer Fire Company, shared his sentiments about Miller Saturday afternoon.
"Rodney was a really dedicated chief," he said, pointing out that Miller faithfully attended local meetings to keep informed about what was happening in the community and to look after the interests of the fire company.
Eberly said Miller liked to joke around, "but when a fire call came in, he was serious, he had to be."
Like many at the fire company Saturday, Eberly had spent the day there, unable to sleep during the early morning hours after learning Miller died of his injuries. Before he left for home in search of sleep Saturday afternoon, Eberly noted the presence of surrounding fire companies that had offered condolences and assistance. "It speaks for itself," he said of the firefighting brotherhood. "We've gotta look out for each other."Stan Brown, owner of Brown's Orchards in Springfield Township, said he knew Miller well from their membership withLoganville Volunteer Fire Company.
But more than that, Brown, who served as the fire chief there from 1976 to 1985, said Miller was a friend of his family.
Brown's son Scott, who succeeded him as fire chief from 1986 to 1994, was the "closest of friends" with Miller. Scott passed away several years ago from brain cancer.
"It devastated Rodney" when Scott died, Brown said.
Standing outside of Loganville fire company, where he stopped to take a lunch order from the guys who had remained at the station since the early morning hours, Brown recalled how Miller questioned why God took the good people after Scott's death. Brown pointed toward the sky, and said that Miller was now with his son in the fire department in heaven.
Brown called Miller's death tragic, and said his service in the community was invaluable.
"He was just a perfect example of what a community person can be," Brown said. He said Miller owned his own carpentry business in addition to serving as the fire chief. "They don't make them like that anymore. He would do anything to help his fellow man."
Goodwill Fire Company Chief Shannon Blevins ran with Loganville Volunteer Fire Company when he was 14 years old. He recalled how Miller always took the time to teach the younger guys.
"He wasn't the type to just push you aside," Blevins said. He said he couldn't remember Miller ever yelling at anyone.
Blevins also described Miller as "country boy," and a "down-to-earth, realistic guy."
Lance Beard, of Beard's Towing Inc., in Jacobus, said Miller was dedicated to serving the community.
"He was always the first on the scene and the last one to leave," Beard said. He said no job was too small for Miller to do. "He was right there with everybody."
Beard said Miller was a leader who always kept his cool. "He knew how to handle people. The situation could be total chaos and he kept things calm."
His voice filled with emotion, Beard said tragic events like Miller's death are getting more difficult to face as he gets older. Beard said Miller is going to be hard to replace. "His heart and soul was in the community," Beard said.
A spokesperson for the Miller family said the family did not have any comment Saturday, and they were requesting privacy.
Copyright 2013 - York Daily Record, Pa.