The Friends of Viborg Award
The Friends of Viborg Award was established in 2003 to honor an individual, family, or organization that has made a significant difference in the Viborg community.
The Leadership Luncheon is an invitation event that kicks off Danish Days each year. The occasion focuses on various accomplishments related to Viborg. The speakers for the luncheon vary with each year and the Friends of Viborg Award Recipient is honored.
This Year’s Winner
2019 Friends of Viborg Award Recipient: Robert (Sonny) & Barbara Miller family
The Danish Vikings Days Committee is proud to announce that the Robert (Sonny) & Barbara Miller family has been selected to receive the 2019 “Friends of Viborg” award. This year’s theme is “An Old Family Tradition.” The Friends of Viborg Award was established in 2003 to honor an individual, family, or organization that has made a significant difference in the Viborg community.
Over one-hundred years ago, in 1913 Martin Miller came to the United States from Denmark. One of his first acts as an American citizen was an act of service, enlisting in the Army in 1917. I’m guessing that Martin would be proud to know that over a century later, his family is being honored for their service and dedication, both to community and country.
The Danish Days Committee chose the Miller Family to be the Friends of Viborg for 2019. “The (current) Miller Family has been in the Viborg area since 1934 and in Viborg since late 1959. They’ve contributed to the Viborg community in many ways, farmers, teacher, nurses, business owners and avid community members. They continue to support the Viborg community in many positive ways,” said Josh and Jen Vandriel of the Danish Days Committee.
The Friends of Viborg Award was established in 2003 to honor an individual, family, or organization that has made a significant difference in the Viborg community. The Miller family are only the fourth family selected over the years for this prestigious award. The matriarch of the family, Barb Miller, shared that she was honored to be selected for the award and considers it “a thank you for the activities that we have done over the years”.
Miller Family History
Martin Miller and Else
Ida Petersen Miller
In 1913 Martin Miller came to the United State from Denmark, he stayed with his brother and sister-in-law, Chris and Cleo Jensen, near Hurley, South Dakota.
He became a citizen in 1917 when he enlisted in the army. He served his enlistment in Bordeaux, France, arriving there November 11, 1918, the day the Armistice was signed.
Martin returned to the Viborg area in 1921, and started farming three and a half miles north of town. He married Else Ida Petersen on November 5, 1925 and all three of their children, Mary, Anna and Robert were born on this farm.
Else Ida Peterson was born March 29, 1903 to Nels C. and Marie Petersen, she died February 1, 1966. She attended Steadman School District #77 and Washington High School in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Martin was born in Frap Skorping, Jutland, Denmark on May 31, 1892 and died in Viborg April 27, 1974. He received his basic education in Denmark and studied English as a second language at Dana College.
Both Martin and Ida were baptized and confirmed in the Lutheran faith and were members of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Viborg.
Robert Martin Sr. and
Barbara Miller Family
Robert Martin Miller, Sr., best known as Sonny, son of Martin (Jensen) Miller and Elsie Ida (Petersen) Miller was born May 31, 1934, in Turner County. He was baptized and confirmed at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church of Viborg. He attended school in Hurley and Viborg, where he graduated in 1952. After graduation he entered the U.S. Navy, returning home in 1956. In 1957 he married Barbara Bauer, daughter of Cecil and Anna (Ekern) Bauer of Yankton. They farmed in the Viborg area from 1959 to 1990. They then moved into Viborg. In January of 2016, together, Sonny and Barb moved to Pioneer Memorial.
Five children were born to this union, Robert Martin “Marty” Miller Jr., Randall Mark “Mark” Miller, Ross Milton “Mick” Miller, Richard Michael “Mike” Miller and Karen Marie (Miller) Knudsen. Grandchildren: Susan, Sally, Randal Jr., Rebecca, Reece, Chasity, Shannon, Samantha, Kimberly, Michelle, Martin, Jordan, MiKayla, Sage, Keely and Tori. The greats just keep coming and coming!
Sonny passed quietly and peacefully with his wife by his side at Pioneer Memorial on January 24, 2019 at the age of 84.
“If he were any better,
he’d be twins!”
One of the things that people admired about Sonny was his always positive attitude and sense of humor. His usual response when asked how he was doing was, “perfect”. Sonny always took a lot of pride in his work, especially in his role as maintenance supervisor for the City of Viborg. Things were “done right” under the diligent supervision of Sonny. In March 1996, having never been so much as hospitalized, Sonny became critically ill with a brain stem cerebral aneurysm and underwent a very complicated surgery to repair the aneurysm and spare his life. Following many days in Mayo, and much time in and out of rehabilitation facilities working fearlessly and relentlessly through hours of physical, occupational, and speech therapy, the man who was left unable to eat, speak or walk after surgery slowly regained his speech, ability to eat, and the ability to walk independently. Though he never returned to work, it was a common site to see Sonny riding his three wheeled trike to city hall to share some wisdom. He was always found to be direct and to the point, but many can’t dispute, he was usually right. Sonny’s grandson Randal Jr., following in his grandpa’s footsteps, works in the city maintenance department. He would frequently consult his grandpa, asking where to find a curb stop or for other advice, up until the time of his death.
AKA “Mrs. Miller”
Barbara, or known by many in this area as “Mrs. Miller” taught fifth grade for the Viborg School District for thirty-five years. Mrs. Miller taught all of her children and some of her grandchildren.
My opinion would be that 5th grade was the most challenging of school years. But, there was no doubt that Mrs. Miller was up to the challenge. She retired at the end of the 2000-2001 school year. Mrs. Miller was a firm teacher that had a knack to make learning fun. Many former students have so many special memories of her in the classroom. She was a friend to students and staff alike.
A Tradition of Service
Among the many qualities of the Miller family is a life long tradition of service.
The tradition of military service for our country began back to the very beginning with Martin enlisting to serve in World War I. Sonny also proudly served his country. He enlisted in the Navy, sailed on the U.S.S. Ticonderoga and served our country from 1952 to 1956. During his time in the Navy, he traveled to many places, making numerous friends along with way. Sonny’s oldest son Marty made a career of military service. He served in the United States Air Force until his retirement. Chasity Oswald (daughter of Mick) was recently sworn in as a Warrant Office with the South Dakota Army National Guard, continuing a fourth generation of proud service of the Miller family.
Community service is also high on the priority list for the Miller family.
Barb, Sonny and son Mick have and continue to serve on the Danish Days committee since it began back during Viborg’s Centennial in 1993. Barb is known for chairing the Taste of Denmark (even though she is Norwegian) for many years.
Sonny and Barb were recognized for their service to the community when they were named as the Community Volunteers of the Year by Pioneer Memorial Hospital and Health Services. They volunteered for meals on wheels, at the gift shop and passed water at the nursing home.
Mick serves the community as Turner County Commissioner.
“Sonny and I have always been active in community service and the kids have just followed along,” said Barb.
Proud Danish Heritage
Sonny was always proud of his Danish heritage. Barb, from Yankton, always fit right in but admitted that said she felt “that we needed a little Norwegian blood to keep things going.” Barb shared that she met Sonny at a dance. She was introduced to him by Sonny Nelson and the rest is history. Barb admitted that it wasn’t always easy integrating with the Danes and at times felt like an outsider.
A fun memory of the Millers is dressing in their costumes and Danish Dancing in the streets of neighboring communities to promote the Diamond Jubilee. Mike went on to Danish Dance beyond this 75th anniversary celebration. He proudly told that now his grandchildren have learned and perform Danish Dancing with the little Our Savoir’s Lutheran Church dancers. Barb not only sewed costumes for her children, but she created costumes for most of her grandchildren as well.
Aebleskiver is another Danish favorite of the Millers. Every Christmas Barb would make these Danish delights for her family. Karen said that her children never remember a Christmas that aebleskiver wasn’t a part of. This tradition has now been passed down to daughter, Karen. The family has grown large enough that she has to make in advance and freeze for the occasion. Grandma Ida’s aebleskiver pan has remained in the Miller family.
Sonny, Barb and Mick have all been members of our Danish Brotherhood Society (DBS). They were all pretty sure that Martin and Ida were as well.
Proud to be a “Viborgian”
Although all of Sonny and Barb’s children live in/near Viborg now, Mick was proud to claim that he and Mike have had a Viborg zip code their entire life. Youngest son Mike farms and lives on the same land that his parents did. He purchased the farm in 1986 from his parents when they moved to town when Sonny accepted the position with the city. Mick has been long time owner of Viborg Amoco / Mick’s Service. The community is so happy that several of the grandchildren call Viborg home and we hope that this trend continues.
Sonny enjoyed his community of Viborg and cherished his many close friendships. The family agreed that Sonny would be bursting his buttons over this award. Sonny enjoyed being active and was very a very social person. “It makes me so happy because it would mean the world to him, he would be so honored” said Karen about her Dad.
Barb and her family wish to thank the Danish Days Committee and the entire community for this honor. There are several opportunities to congratulation them throughout the weekend. They will be honored at the Leadership Luncheon on Thursday, at Glood Park (7:30 pm) on Friday Night, during the parade on Saturday and a reception will be held from 1:30 – 3:30 at the DBS at Sunday. I said to Barb, “whew you are going to be tired at the end of the weekend”. She replied with a smile “a good kind of tired.”
In conjunction with Danish Days (July 18th – 21st) there will be an open house at the DBS Hall on Sunday July 21 from 1:30 pm to 3:30 pm. Also during Danish Days, the museum will be presented with the “Friends of Viborg Award” at Glood Park on Friday, July 19th at 8:15 pm.
- 2017 Lewis Family Drug
- 2016 Jones’ Food Center
- 2015 D.B.S Hall
- 2014 Southeastern Electric Cooperative, Inc.
- 2013 Viborg Enterprise
- 2012 Viborg Co-op Elevator Association
- 2011 Farmers Lumber Company
- 2010 Viborg Public School
- 2009 Pioneer Memorial Hospital & Health Services
- 2008 Viborg Volunteer Fire Department
- 2007 The Lund Theatre
- 2006 The Scandinavian Coop Creamery
- 2005 Robert & Ethel Ward Family
- 2004 Charles Jorgensen & Cena Glood Family
- 2003 The Kemper Family