By Maddy Vitale
To encapsulate all that Ocean City resident Fred Miller, a historian, author, and longtime lifeguard, has done in his 76 years, would not fit into anything short of a tome.
Miller and his late wife Susan, wrote nine books together, six of which were on Ocean City, chronicling the city’s vibrant history. Miller has also been active in the Ocean City Historical Museum and the Ocean City Life-Saving Station.
“I met many interesting people at the museum and from them I learned so much about the history of the city,” Miller said from his Florida retreat. “Much of my research was done at the museum.”
Over the years Miller has received awards and accolades for his dedication to the history of the city and his contributions, as well as his efforts on behalf of the Ocean City Beach Patrol.
And he does it all for one reason.
“I love Ocean City,” Miller said. “It is a place I have called home since I became a member of the beach patrol in 1965.”
A retired health and physical education teacher in Pennsauken, who could have taught history with his degree, said preserving historic buildings in America’s Greatest Family Resort isn’t the only important thing he wants preserved. Remembering the people who have made the family-friendly community what it is today and what it has been since it got its motto in 1920, is vital to the city’s future, he said.
“People are important, not just buildings,” Miller noted. “It bothers me that people call Ocean City “Duplex City,” like that is a negative term. Ocean City is a resort town and multi-family buildings have always been a part of the city.”
Miller and his wife detailed the many people who made Ocean City great in a book titled: “Legendary Locals of Ocean City.”
“Our next book was going to be “More Legendary Locals of Ocean City,” Miller said. “We had already discussed the book with Arcadia Publishing before Susan died.”
With the loss of Susan in July of 2015, whom Miller described as the love of his life, there will not be a 10th book. He does, however, write articles for area publications. Writing books was something the couple of 33 years did together.
“We were a great team,” Miller said. “I couldn’t write another book without her.”
Miller met his wife when he worked on the beach patrol in 1975.
“It was love at first sight.”
They bought their first home on Delancey Place in the resort in 1979. The next house, the one he lives in half of the year, is on Gull Road.
Being a snowbird has its advantages, he said.
“I get to bike an hour every day and the weather is beautiful,” he said, adding that it also helps him with his grief. “It gives me peace.”
But he always comes back to his favorite place, Ocean City, just in time for warmer weather.
“I can bike every day over the 9th Street Bridge into Somers Point,” Miller said, adding that he would never sell his home here. “I love it.”
Throughout the years Miller has remained an avid writer. His love for the written word grew from his work on the Ocean City Beach Patrol, which began in 1965.
In 1981 Ocean City Beach Patrol Captain George T. Lafferty appointed Miller, who was a lieutenant on the beach patrol, public relations director.
“I wrote weekly beach patrol articles for the Ocean City Sentinel and Ocean City Gazette. To make the articles more interesting, I added lifeguard history. I found the history in the microfilms of the Ocean City Sentinel that date back to 1893,” he said.
While looking for lifeguard information, he was often distracted by other stories, he remarked.
That was a good thing.
“It got me interested in Ocean City history. I loved researching and I did enjoy writing. But the researching was fun; writing was work,” Miller joked.
By 2003, he amassed plenty of historical information about Ocean City that would make any historian proud.
That same year, his wife – his inspiration – told him that with the city celebrating its 125th anniversary in 2004, it would be a good time to write a book.
And they did. “Ocean City: The Greatest Family Resort” is still one of their top selling books.
“Arcadia Publishing was interested in our book and it hit the bookstores. I believe it’s the best book on Ocean City history. It’s still a big seller,” Miller said.
With the success of that book, Arcadia was happy to publish five more of their books, he noted.
The rest is history.
In addition to “Ocean City: The Greatest Family Resort” and “Legendary Locals of Ocean City,” some of the couple’s books include “Ocean City Beach Patrol,” “Ocean City 1950-1980,” and “Ocean City Historic Hotels.”
Miller may never write another book. But he will continue to write articles, he said.
“That’s the fun of it. There is so much information I have about Ocean City and I want to share it.”
And just as he promised to continue to impart his knowledge about Ocean City to others – he also vowed he will never leave the place he has called home for so long.
“I love Ocean City,” Miller said. “We bought our house on Gull Road so many years ago. The view of the ocean is spectacular. I will never sell it.”
His books can be found in several locations in the area, including the Ocean City Historical Museum, and can also be purchased online through Amazon and other sites.