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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

A Lasting Tribute to Moorpark Couple

October 14, 2000|TRACI ISAACS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

MOORPARK — Despite its growth over the years, Moorpark--Ventura County's youngest and safest city--is the quintessential small town.

Former postmaster Bart Miller, who arrived half a century ago, remembers when door-to-door mail service was a luxury reserved for larger towns and not a single traffic light hung above Moorpark Avenue.

Today, Miller and his wife, Vernice, will witness the dedication of the town's latest addition: a six-acre community park named after the couple.

Thanking this pioneering Moorpark couple by dedicating the 15th municipal park in their honor was the least the city could do, Councilman Chris Evans said. "Much of what Moorpark is today came from the groundwork they did years ago."

When someone walks to the end of his or her driveway and checks the mail, it's because Miller, during his 20 years as Moorpark's postmaster, helped launch the service in 1950. Before then, people had to travel to the town's single post office to pick up their mail.

The city had its first Little League team and Cub Scout troop because Miller started them. He was Moorpark's honorary mayor in 1969, more than a dozen years before the city was incorporated.

Beginning in the 1960s, Vernice Miller spent 16 years chronicling events as one of two reporters at the Moorpark Enterprise, the city's first newspaper.

She started the Make Moorpark Beautiful Society, which helped spruce up the community and established an annual city parade, which later became the County Days Parade.

As a result of their efforts, the whole town benefited, Evans said. And now, it's time to give a little bit back.

The new neighborhood park will include a monument sign and a brass, 10-by-12-inch bronze plague that bears the Millers' name. The city will also rename the road fronting the park from Science Drive to Miller Drive as soon as the signs are delivered.

"You can't look at the old newspaper and not see their names," Evans said. "They were Mr. and Mrs. Moorpark for many years."

The retired couple are still active in the community.

Vernice Miller, 77, attends the Moorpark Woman's Fortnightly Club and is a lifetime member of the Moorpark Historical Society.

Bart, 79, works with the city's Rotary Club, and both attend Moorpark United Methodist Church.

Evans admits he borrowed much of his own leadership style from watching Miller serve as a planning commissioner from 1990 to 1998.

And it's the Millers' attitude, and their public service, that helped set the standard for today's city leaders, Evans maintains.

"Forty years ago, they did the work for people like me," he said. "It puts the yoke on us to do something for those who aren't born yet and live up to Bart and Vernice's investment in our town."

Bart Miller said he is overwhelmed by the attention and excited about the park dedication today at 10 a.m. He said he has received many pats on the back from friends.

"We were shocked," he said. "They told us at a City Council meeting and we're so honored."

Like her husband, Vernice Miller said she can't believe the hoopla.

"Everything we did we loved doing," she said. "It wasn't like working hard, because we loved it all."

Miller Park is six blocks from the couple's home. They have stopped by several times in the seven months it has been under construction.

When it opens in about a month, Miller Park will have two lighted tennis courts, one basketball court, softball and soccer fields, a playground, picnic pavilion with 19 tables and six barbecue pits and restrooms.

Though Vernice Miller said she will probably visit often, her husband joked that they are too old for sports.

"We go to Las Vegas and Laughlin [Nev.]. My wife plays the slots and I play blackjack," he quipped. "Of course we go to church every Sunday."

"I don't think he should have said that," Vernice said. "We do have other outlets."

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