Commentary: Remembering the late Larry Miller and his dedication

I first met Larry Miller in 1990 when I was in high school and volunteered for his campaign for state representative from Shelton, Stratford and Trumbull.

The late Larry Miller

The late Larry Miller

In one of our first conversations, I asked him what his platform was, and he said: “I’m just a regular guy trying to make a difference. If I can help people’s lives in some small way, then that’s my platform.”

That summed up Larry’s humble, quiet dedication to our families during his 23-year career in the state legislature.

Larry passed away May 31, at 78 after a long bout with cancer. The loss will be felt most by those he loved the most — his wife of 54 years, Millie; his three kids, and four grandkids. He was such a phenomenal and loving presence in their family, and they were the center of his life.

But all of us in Shelton, Stratford and Trumbull will mourn Larry’s loss as one of our leaders.

 

Didn’t set out to be a politician

Larry was exactly the type of person you want to hold public office. He never set out to be a politician. Larry lived the American dream, starting and growing his own business.

He got into politics locally on the Stratford Town Council and planning and zoning committees, entering into state politics as a “second act” in his career as he sold his business.

 

Stem cell research advocate

Over his 23 years Larry had many achievements, but the one that stands out most is the one that defined his struggles and triumphs in the last 15 years — stem cell research.

I remember when Larry was first told he had cancer in the late 1990s that he thought he had two or three years to live, but that there was experimental treatment with something called “stem cells” that he was going to try.

Those treatments not only extended his life by 15 years, but rapidly became mainstream in cancer treatment. Larry worked with Gov. Jodi Rell to establish Connecticut’s groundbreaking $50 million stem cell research grant, and put a human face on the ability of scientific advances to help all our families.

 

Housing and environmental issues

At the state Capitol, Larry was known as a champion for both housing and environmental issues.

He was the leader of the annual fight against “8-30g,” the housing statute that allows developers to hold localities ransom in the name of affordable housing. Larry championed an alternative approach based on local control of zoning.

He also championed bio-diesel as a realistic alternative to traditional fossil fuels, and co-authored major bi-partisan bills for brownfield remediation and cleaning Long Island Sound.

 

One of the good guys

Larry was the last of a generation of leaders, including state Sen. Doc Gunther and state Rep. Dick Belden, who represented us all so well in the legislature.

Larry Miller represented the best of our country — a love of family, getting ahead through hard work, and bravely facing adversity. Connecticut lost one of the good guys. And I will miss my friend.

 

Dan Debicella is a former state senator from Shelton.

 

 

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