Thursday, March 22, 2018

CHARLIE MINER, R.I.P. | Vero Beach and East Hampton

Charlie Miner (R) enjoying his great-nephew and great-great-
niece and her (unrelated) Angry Bird. (Photo by JT Marlin.) 
March 20, 2018 – Charlie Miner interrupted his studies at Princeton (Class of 1943) to sign up with the U.S. Army Air Forces.

He served in Europe as pilot of a B-25 bomber.

He died yesterday, according to his daughter, and Vero Beach resident, Charmaine Caldwell.

memorial service in Vero Beach is planned for May 3 and another one in the summer in East Hampton. 

The following is a slightly edited version of an article I wrote about Miner for The Vero Portfolio, May-June 2015 issue, p. 24. The ending is, of course, updated.

Charlie Miner was one of seven grandchildren of his illustrious grandfather, FDR’s first Treasury Secretary, Will Woodin. His mother was Woodin's eldest daughter, Mary, who married an infantry captain, Robert Charles (Charlie) Miner, Sr., grandson of famed anti-slavery Federalist Congressman Charles Miner

Miner divided his time at the end of his life between Vero Beach and East Hampton until his cousin and constant companion Anne Gerli died in 2016. 

He was born in New York City in 1921 and prepared for college at Buckley School and Choate. At Princeton he studied engineering and joined the war effort as pilot of a B-25 Mitchell twin-engine bomber, which had a crew of three or more. Miner flew many of the 18 bombing missions of his squadron over northern Italy. [More about his contribution to the war effort here.]

He was lucky to have survived. Of 16 million American veterans of World War II, fewer than one in 16 were alive in 2015, only 80,000 in Florida. That year Miner was one of only about 250 World War II vets left in Indian River County, when he may have been Indian River County's oldest surviving European-theater WWII bomber pilot.

Miner told me how much he loves Vero Beach. Years ago in the 1950s and 1960s, he spent time with his mother (who divorced Charlie Sr. and did not remarry) in the Riomar social life. It  revolved, he said, around rotating dinners and celebrations among the original 12 houses. The 30 residents took turns throwing parties. The Riomar clubhouse facilities came later. John's Island—where Miner and his late wife Maisie lived—opened in 1970 and he said was at first resented because it drew people away from Riomar (and then became successful, and was imitated by the Moorings).

Charlie Miner’s grandfather, Will Woodin, was the man who dealt with the Wall Street and banking panic that started in 1929 and was not put to rest until FDR came into office in March 1933. FDR's first Treasury Secretary was given wide latitude in addressing the problem. 

Will Woodin was born in Pennsylvania and settled in New York after a successful career as the CEO of a huge business selling railroad rolling stock. He had four children. The eldest and youngest settled in Vero Beach — Mary Woodin Miner and Libby Woodin Rowe. Libby’s husband, Wally Rowe, and a brother bought homes in Riomar. Mary and Libby eventually lived in Vero Beach most of the year. Charlie’s mother lived in John's Island after Riomar and died in 2007 at 102.

Charlie remembers not just the bridge that connected the two sides of the Indian River, "Beachland Boulevard" where Route 60 crosses, before the concrete-arch Barber Bridge.  He remembers the drawbridge that was built earlier, in 1995. Before that, back in the 1930s, there was a bridge made of wooden railroad ties and swung around horizontally to let boats through the Indian River. 
Charlie (R) and me in 2014. Photo by
Alice Tepper Marlin.

Back in those early days Beachland Boulevard was the northern edge of Vero Beach, and there wasn’t a Riverside Theater. Charlie says the money was raised in several ways. Rosie and Sterling Adams organized a dance every year. He and his cousin, Bill Rowe, used to sell season tickets and organized an auction of donated prizes to raise money for the theater. The Theater is, of course, now a central  institution in Vero, contiguous to the Vero Museum of Art.

What Charlie Miner liked about Vero is that it is quiet. That was one of the original motivations of the developers, along with the availability of rail transportation and ocean beaches. There is no strip with night clubs, no airport. As Charlie says, “I’m not a teenager anymore.”

Charlie’s Advice at 93 for a Long and Happy Life:

  • For a Long Life: Every morning a meal of two eggs and tomato juice or V-8 (with or without the hair of the dog). 

  • For a Happy Life: “Enjoy life while you can. If you want to do something, don’t wait. Do it while you can because life goes by quickly. You may never get another chance.” He says his years have “Gone… Boom!”

  • During the many recent years that I have been studying and writing about FDR's forgotten first Treasury Secretary, Charlie's grandfather, I and my wife Alice have been amused and impressed by Charlie's joie-de-vivre and his sharp recollections of his long life. It was a sad moment when I learned of his death, just two months after he celebrated his 96th birthday.

    Postscript, May 3, 2018: The East Hampton Star just published my "Guest Words" on the passing of Charlie Miner, remembering him and others who have bravely faced the guns of Adolf Hitler.