Longtime Woodstock police chief dies at 64
Jerry Miller, who earned the trust and respect of Woodstock as its police chief for 28 years, died Monday morning at his home in Edinburg. He was 64.
Mike Kline, a cousin, retired town officer and part-time bailiff in Shenandoah County, confirmed Miller’s death from complications linked to cancer.
Kline and others who worked for Miller during his long tenure paid tribute to the loyalty he inspired among those who worked for him and the high esteem in which the community held him.
“He was the fairest, the most honest and humblest person I’ve ever known, and I think that speaks for anyone who ever knew him,” Kline said.
Miller was born and raised in Edinburg. After a stint in the Army and with the Aileen Corp., he joined the Woodstock Police Department in 1974 as a patrolman. By 1981, he had been appointed chief, a position he held until his retirement in 2009.
Jeff Coffelt, who retired as a lieutenant from the Woodstock department, said turnover in the department was rare.
“He made improvements over the years in working conditions, pay, benefits and equipment, and he kept trying to say, ‘you all did it,'” Coffelt said. “But Jerry was the one leading us. He never wanted any recognition.”
Kline said he was one of 10 members of the force who worked for Miller for at least 25 years.
“When somebody came to work for Jerry Miller, they stayed there,” Kline said.
Retired Woodstock Sgt. Robert Bowman recalled a traffic stop involving a drunk driver that illustrated the value of the respect according to Miller throughout the town. Bowman said the suspect had turned belligerent and appeared ready for a scrap with him and another officer at the scene.
“I knew we were going to have to fight this individual,” Bowman said of the suspect. “We looked around, and a pickup truck pulled up, and there was Jerry, and he defused the situation. He was just that kind of guy. He respected everybody, and everybody respected him.”
Kline said Miller spent his retirement years living quietly at his home in Edinburg, enjoying the company of his wife, his pets and activities at his church.
“He just liked the community,” Kline said. “I don’t think he ventured too far out of town.”
Kline said members of the Woodstock Police Department, Virginia State Police and the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office are planning a full police procession on Thursday from the Dellinger Funeral Home to the Wakemans Grove Church of the Brethren, site of a gravesite service. The time has yet to be determined.
Bowman said Miller was more than a leader; he was a mentor who taught everyone on the force what it meant to be a police officer.
“Your uniform had to be tight,” Bowman said. “Your hair had to be the right length. He wanted the public to respect you, and it started with your appearance and how you conducted yourself. I’m proud to say that I worked for him, and I would do it again.”