Ken Miller worked on airplanes that carried the parachutists at the World Freefall Skydive Convention in Quincy.
Most of us only dream of waking up to do what we love for a living. Ken Miller used his military training and experience to do just that for his entire career.
Miller was born in Collinsville and graduated from Civic Memorial High School in Bethalto in 1973. He currently lives in Alton. He has three sons, two grandsons and two granddaughters.
After enlisting in the Marines in August 1976 and attending boot camp in San Diego, his military training took him to Aviation Machinist Maintenance School in Tennessee. He eventually was stationed at the Marine Corps Air Station in Beaufort, S.C.
“Right on the coast,” Miller remarks.
As part of a support unit for five fighter squadrons there, he performed pre-flight as well as post-flight maintenance on the planes.
“We were the first and the last person the pilot talked to when they flew,” he says.
Miller points out that additionally, the base supplied planes for the movie “The Great Santini” and he actually played an extra in the movie.
Upon his discharge in 1979, he attended school in aviation technology at Belleville Area College. He completed his airframe and power plant license in 1980. Miller notes he had wanted to work on airplanes since the time he was a child.
“When I was 5 years old, I told my parents, ‘I want to work on airplanes someday,’” he says.
Miller says his tour in the military was time well-spent.
“I got an education and learned a career,” he says.
He was engaged in the aircraft maintenance occupation his entire career.
“Where else could you pursue your hobby and get paid that well?” he points out. He says he never had trouble finding work because the skillset was always in demand.
Miller’s skills spanned a wide variety of aircraft. He performed mechanical and electrical work on craft, which even included crop-dusting planes and cloth-covered, antique wooden machines. He says he enjoyed it immensely.
He explains that among other jobs, he worked at the World Free Fall Convention in Quincy on the airplanes the skydivers used. The convention is billed as the most exhilarating skydiving event in the world and serves to educate and encourage freefall enthusiasts.
In retirement, Miller has pursued a number of pastimes and hobbies. He works as a Foster Grandparent at East Elementary School in Alton. There, he tutors and mentors students in addition to helping administer tests.
Miller also has a number of personal hobbies that keep him busy. He owns a Honda Gold Wing motorcycle he rides frequently up the Great River Road between Alton and Grafton. He also enjoys spending time at rifle and pistol ranges.
Miller’s career is a lesson in the value of military training and in pursuing what you love to do, even into retirement. Summing up his career and retirement, he smiles and says, “I enjoy what I did and I enjoy what I do.”