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After surviving World War II, Asheville man vowed to serve the community

A man who's spent a lifetime reaching out to folks in need, especially during the holidays, is retiring after 67 years of service here in Western North Carolina and across the country. Our Person of the Week, Colonel Ernest Miller, is stepping down at the end of the year. (Photo credit: WLOS Staff)

A man who's spent a lifetime reaching out to folks in need, especially during the holidays, is retiring after 67 years of service here in Western North Carolina and across the country. Our Person of the Week, Colonel Ernest Miller, is stepping down at the end of the year.

During the holidays especially, we've come to expect a familiar ring and his familiar voice.

"Thank you and a Merry Christmas to you," he said recently, ringing the bell at a Red Kettle in front of the Asheville Kmart store.

Miller says his impressive body of work for the Salvation Army is the product of divine intervention.

"But looking back, I can see how God directed the events in my life to send me to in a direction that was his purpose," he told us.

The bell ringing takes him back to his earliest memories.

"I began the ring the bell in the year 1935, 82 years ago. I was 10 years old," he recalls.

That childhood calling stood the test of time. At 92, still committed to the cause.

Miller served in the Navy during World War II and that experience explains his community service for generations to come.

"I made a special promise to God, that if I survived the war I would spend the rest of my life in Christian service, and here I am," he said.

The Salvation Army's put him to work as everything from social worker to musician. Most prominently, he was National Public Affairs Director in Washington D.C., shaking hands with everyone from Speaker of the House Tip O'Neil to President Ronald Reagan.

"For 16-and-a-half years, I was the representative of the Salvation Army for the federal government," he says proudly. "I knew and worked with five presidents."

In 1990, he retired to Asheville, but has been extremely active, especially with holiday relief efforts over the years. Four years ago, Colonel Miller married Billie.

"Well, Billie is a marvelous lady," he said.

A ringing endorsement from the man who's been an important voice for the Salvation Army. Colonel Miller says he plans to spend some quality time with his wife and even has two books he'd like to write.

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