Though she doesn’t know the exact year he came to Crescent City, Debra Stover remembers what Richard Miles wore the first day he walked into her store.
“He was dressed in his slacks and had a nice shirt tucked in with suspenders and a tie,” said Stover, who owns Del Norte Office Supply. “My husband gave me the word to describe Richard: He was a conduit. His goal was to make this community a better community.”
Miles, a master gardener who didn’t shy away from cleaning out flower pots and tree wells in downtown Crescent City or from making his concerns and ideas known to local elected officials and civic leaders, died on Feb. 28. He was 71.
Miles moved to Crescent City about 30 years ago where he served as the departmental librarian at Pelican Bay State Prison, according to his sister Pat Hall. The eldest of five, Miles grew up in Idaho Falls, graduating from the Idaho Falls High School in 1967 and working at the Hughes Chinchilla Farm in Shelley, Idaho.
Miles studied history and English at Idaho State University, Pocatello before pursuing a degree in library science in Marina, California. Before relocating to Crescent City, Miles was a librarian at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey.
“He and I both ended up being librarians,” said Miles’ sister, Nancy Kelley, who was the second eldest.
Kelley said Miles worked at Pelican Bay when Charles Manson was in residence and would often check books out to the cult leader. According to Kelley, who got this information from her brother, Manson favored Danielle Steele and Stephen King.
“My brother had insight into the mind of the criminals there,” Kelley said. “And he would want to shock me with conversation about what books they read.”
In Del Norte County, Miles formed close friendships with Bill Stamps Sr. and Jordan Kekry, both of whom have since passed, Stover said. In addition to working alongside Stover, her mother and her daughters cleaning the flower pots and tree wells, Stover said Miles would bring her extra plants and offer to plant them alongside her building.
Miles also worked on the landscaping for Bob Black’s law offices, the old McNulty House at 710 H St. Black, who met Miles when he became county counsel about 20 years ago and has been representing the city for about 10 years, said Miles always had an intelligent opinion about what was happening in Crescent City.
“Sometimes it would seem like he commented on almost every item on the agenda, which could take up a lot of time,” Black said. “He was frequently very well informed and his comments were, generally speaking, pertinent to the subject matter.”
Black’s wife, former First 5 Del Norte Executive Director Patti Vernelson, said as a former librarian, and a director on the Del Norte County Library Board, Miles supported one of her organization’s first programs, the Wonder Bus. His master gardener skills can also be seen at the Family Resource Center of the Redwoods, Vernelson said.
“He was a friend of First 5,” she said. “He was a friend of the Wonder Bus.”
Miles was also passionate about solid waste and recycling, said Tedd Ward, director of the Del Norte Solid Waste Management Authority. Miles served on the Solid Waste Task Force for five years, according to Ward. Miles was also a master composter in addition to being a master gardener and taught a composting class.
“He’s one of those folks that are sort of woven into the cloth of the community,” Ward said. “You’d see him around riding on his bicycle and it’s just part of the context of being here. It’s like we all share the same college campus and there’s something about seeing familiar faces who are trying to engage in a positive way that just makes you feel better about living here.”
Miles is survived by his five sisters: Nancy Kelley, of Madison, Alabama; Pat Hall and her husband Gene, of Tucson, Arizona; Roxanne Long and her husband Jim, of Vinton, Virginia; Kelly and her husband Yoshi Diakoku, of San Francisco; and Kathy Stimac, of Mesa, Arizona.
Reach Jessica Cejnar at firstname.lastname@example.org .