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Saturday
Dec082018

My Walks with Mike

Article by Claudia Kittock, photos by Rick Kittock

Several years ago I met Mike Miller, a neighbor. He was part of a walking group from Emanuel Housing that invited other neighbors to join. The more I walked with Mike, the more I learned about this remarkable man and a friendship was born. We continue to walk together twice a week, and our friendship keeps growing. I am a lucky woman!

Mike Miller

I have learned many things about Mike. He was a farmer, a mechanic, and he worked in a mental health facility. Mike has lived a fascinating life. He is a skilled and avid fiddle player, and after a double knee replacement, his daughter bought him an airplane kit to help pass the time.  If the phrase ‘model airplanes’ conjures pictures of plastic kits, that isn’t what Mike does. He will build plastic airplanes, but prefers to work in balsa. Mike is an artist with wood.

Mike built his first airplane when he was in 4th grade. The man who would become his stepfather wanted to tutor Mike in math, a subject he was struggling to master. He promised Mike an airplane kit if he worked on his math skills. 49 years later, Mike rediscovered his love.

A love of history, particularly military history, has supported Mike’s love of airplanes. As a child growing up in a small town, he read every book about aviation in his high school library. He now buys plans of old airplanes, continues to read everything he can about airplanes, and even has a file of planes that never flew. When I need to know something about history, I ask Mike. He is kind enough to share his knowledge with me and I am always slightly embarrassed by what I don’t know. I am so grateful for the things I learn on my walks with Mike.

I learned that World War I established every role airplanes now play in the military, but it wasn’t until after World War II that the Air Force was established as a separate branch of the military. The United States was behind every other nation in aviation at the beginning of WWII, but the need drove both the science and urgency to create airplanes that were appropriate for combat.

Mike works 7 days a week on his creations, often 10 hours a day. Each plane requires 200-300 hours of his work. He loves what he does and his work shows. A year ago, Mike had his first show and it is now a yearly event.

If you're interested in viewing Mike’s work, he has a show set up at Fresh Grounds Coffee Shop at 1362 7th Street West in St. Paul (Facebook). His work tells his story far better than any words. Make sure you find the time to check them out.

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About Claudia Kittock

Claudia is a resident of the Mill District. In addition to writing for Mill City Times, she is a founding Board Member of Friends of the Mill District. Claudia is the author of Health Through Chaos, mentors young adults at YouthLink, and has served on the Downtown Minneapolis Neighborhood Association (DMNA).
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Contact: claudia@millcitymedia.org
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