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Wichita’s recycling couple celebrates 75 years together

Paul and Margaret Miller, Wichita’s recycling gurus, recently celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary.
Paul and Margaret Miller, Wichita’s recycling gurus, recently celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary. The Wichita Eagle

Paul and Margaret Miller never doubt their love.

Not after 75 years.

The couple known for leading Wichita’s recycling efforts for more than three decades celebrated their 75th anniversary last week. He’s 98, she’s 97.

The Pro Kansas Miller Recycling Center, 725 E. Clark, carries their names.

Margaret Miller was instrumental in the founding of the Citizens Utility Ratepayer board in 1985, and she published a recycling and environmental newsletter for many years. In National Geographic magazine, when she and her husband were recognized for their recycling efforts that same year, she was nicknamed “Mrs. Recycling.”

Margaret was instrumental in the founding of the Citizens Utility Ratepayer Board in 1985, and she published a recycling and environmental newsletter for many years. In National Geographic magazine, when she and her husband were recognized for their recycling efforts that same year, she was nicknamed “Mrs. Recycling.”

Paul Miller is the last living member of the team that designed the Beech Bonanza in the 1940s.

Paul was an aircraft engineer at Beechcraft for 43 years and is the last living member of the team that designed the Beech Bonanza in the 1940s. He was on the board of KPTS-TV for many years and devoted decades to working with the Boy Scouts, Junior Achievement and church administration. One of his most famous Eagle Scouts is Robert Gates, the secretary of defense from 2006 to 2011.

More than three-quarters of a century ago, Paul and Margaret met as teachers at Thayer High School in southeast Kansas. They were 22.

He had grown up in Eureka and had gone to Emporia State University, then known as Kansas State Teachers College. She grew up in Independence and went to Kansas State Teachers College of Pittsburg, today’s Pittsburg State University.

Paul had just started teaching math at Thayer. He quickly found himself smitten by the new English teacher.

“It was her intelligence,” Paul said. “I had a few girlfriends before, and most of them were airheads. She’s a real brain. I am very much impressed by her general knowledge and intelligence. I decided I wanted to take up with her. That’s why we chased each other. It was a mutual type of thing.”

Margaret was impressed by his grammar.

“I said something about having a broken watch that needed to be fixed. He said, ‘Don’t you mean repaired?’ I was impressed. But that was so many, many years ago.”

Paul remembers his first salary as a teacher in Thayer: $100 a month. The Great Depression had swept the country, and jobs were rare. Paul’s father left home when Paul was 11. His mother was disabled. While he was at Thayer, Paul would send $25 of his $100 salary home to his mother, another $25 to his sister in college, would make a car payment and would have $8.32 left over after paying the rent.

Margaret said she and Paul were nearly the only young adults at Thayer.

“Everybody else was either too old or too young,” she said.

Paul calls it kismet that they met.

In 1940, the young couple were married at her family home in Independence. By then, they had moved to Wichita, where they maintained separate apartments for the first year while they worked at Beechcraft, he as an engineer, she as a typist.

By 1948, they had bought their first house together and began raising a family: son Tim is a professor of religion at the University of Kansas; son Mike is a retired journalist who worked for Reuters; daughter Gretchen is a former judge, law professor and attorney; and son Jeff is a professor at Colorado State University.

In 1989, the Millers helped form Sedgwick County Citizens for Recycling. And the Pro-Kansas Miller Recycling Center opened in 2004 near Pawnee and Broadway.

After all these years, the Millers are still devoted to one another.

The main thing you’ve got to do to get along is try to do a little bit more for the other person than you expect her to do for you. … That’s the way you get a partnership to work, whether it is a marriage or anything else.

Paul Miller of Wichita

“The main thing you’ve got to do to get along is try to do a little bit more for the other person than you expect her to do for you,” Paul said. “I was always glad to do a little extra for her, and she was always glad to do extra things for me. That’s the way you get a partnership to work, whether it is a marriage or anything else.”

Margaret said she likes him because he is tall and good-looking.

“He still is and looks good, I think,” she said.

The compliment didn’t fall on deaf ears.

“She’s still beautiful,” Paul said.

Beccy Tanner: 316-268-6336, @beccytanner

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