There was nothing more shocking than to hear of the passing of our race founder, Fred Miller, on March 6th, 2017. The news spread quickly and swiftly amongst the PNC Bank Roar on the River committee and the entire ABPA (American Power Boat Association) racing community and beyond. The pain and disbelief was heart-wrenching and unexpected. How could this be happening? Fred WAS the race! He was our mentor, our friend, our organizer…our ROCK.
There is so much to be said about Fred. Where can you even begin? He was the most dynamic and energized 78-year-old you would ever have had the pleasure of encountering and working with. He was the founder of the Roar on the River, as well as a fierce competitor on the waters in his racing days.
Fred’s main role was the PNC Bank Roar on the River race coordinator. He set the foundation for the race to run as smoothly as the Detroit River waters at sunrise. The flawless choreography of bringing racers in from all over the United States, and even as far as Norway, was managed by his brilliance with skilled ease. Not to mention the years and years of sponsor relationships that only Fred could cultivate from the beginning of the event in 1950. Some sponsors have been with the race since its inception.
The Fred Miller Influence
Fred had friends and associates from literally all over the world. The APBA race circuit coordinates races that include the SST-45 and SST-200 World Championships, which have been held on the Detroit River Trenton channel in Trenton, Michigan, for many years. These prestigious World Championships have been awarded to the Trenton event, mainly due to Fred’s professional affiliation, expert coordination and the skilled organization of TORC (Trenton Outboard Racing Club). The race will carry on under the direction of John Broge, Fred’s protégé.
“Fred had a way of sizing up the big picture and fitting a particular circumstance into the big picture. I imagine Fred looking at us, everyone involved in putting on the Roar On The River, kicked back in a chair with his feet up and laughing while he asks us what we are going to do now. What are we going to do now that Fred is not here? Our answer is that we are going to make this the best Roar On The River ever. We will honor not only Fred’s commitment, but our own as well,” Broge said.
Paul Jocks, the head Executive Director of the PNC Bank Roar on the River, who has known Fred since 1980, is another boat racing “family member” of the Fred Miller community.
“Fred had many talents both on and off the water and was always willing to share and mentor others. I learned a lot working with Fred, but will always remember his positive attitude, especially when working on problems,” Jocks said. “He believed there was always a solution and when a problem was resolved he’d always say, “That one’s resolved, on to the next!” I’m sure he’d give us the same advice regarding his passing.”
Like father like daughter, Stacy (Miller) Iwanicki carries the legacy of Fred, as she inherited Fred’s “get ‘er done” spirit and passion for the outdoors. While she is not a boat racer, similar to “Army brats”, she grew up in the racing circuit family with Fred’s wife, Merry, often at his side. Gordie Miller, Fred’s son, however has raced on the waters for many years.
A Final Goodbye to the Godfather of the Races
The race will continue with a heartfelt mission and determination from every person involved to make Fred proud of his legacy. He has passed on to us lifelong lessons on spirit, respect and countless other schoolings that you can only get from a father figure.
Fred, we will miss your guidance, your sparkling blue eyes and your enthusiasm and passion for racing. During each race, we will take solace in knowing that you will have the BEST seat in the house rooting for everyone during each and every lap. We are grateful for your mentorship, tough love and for being a part of our lives. Race in Peace, Fred.
NOTE: There will be a public memorial for Fred Miller at the 2017 PNC Bank Roar on the River on Saturday, July 15th, 2017, 7pm in the main tent. Everyone is welcome to attend.