The white house at the gates of Liberty Lake Park is going to be empty soon.
Joydine Miller, widowed two months ago, is moving.
Dave Miller, her husband, was the resident ranger at the park for six years. He died in December of kidney cancer. He was 60.
Spokane County Parks director Wyn Birkenthal said the search for a new ranger will start in-house right away. If no successful candidate emerges, the department will advertise the job.
“The position calls for good mechanical skills, excellent people skills and the ability to take care of buildings, landscaped areas and wilderness, all at once,” Birkenthal said. “It’s quite a challenge.”
Joydine Miller will stay in the Valley.
“We all of us have the impression that the government is a cold employer,” Joydine said. “Well, they told Dave he could live here for as long as he lived. He was diagnosed with cancer nine months before he died.
“Dave loved the park.”
Joydine, 65, has a string of stories about wildlife in the park, starting with the raccoons.
“I feed 30 raccoons on a picnic table outside the back door every night, and if I don’t have it ready, they come and rattle the door,” she said.
But the Millers were careful not to make pets of the animals, she said.
One summer, three baby raccoons were found in the rubble of a building that had been torn down.
“Dave put them in a cardboard box and set them out by the picnic table. That night their mama came and took them back home.
“I don’t know how to take care of baby raccoons,” Joydine said, still sounding relieved that she didn’t have to learn.
Then there was a fawn whose mother taught the Millers that a doe will never come back to her baby until nightfall.
“He was the fattest, cutest little fawn. She would bring him into the park every day and come back and get him after dark,” she said. Barely three months old, the fawn disappeared after the hubbub of the Fourth of July. That was three years ago.
The people who flood into Liberty Lake Park every summer gave the Millers friendship, occasional rowdy nights and, rarely, a glimpse of tragedy.
“Do you remember the two boats that were on Liberty Lake and they had a crash and a man was killed? Dave was the only one here at the time. That was extremely difficult for him. The man had his two little boys with him,” Joydine said.
Joydine and her husband ranged all over the 3,000-acre park. Their favorite spot was the pint-sized beach, where depending on the season, one can find a parade of ducklings, toddlers, or even baby turtles.
The number of people in Spokane County who remain unaware of Liberty Lake Park still amazes Joydine. “It’s the most beautiful park I’ve seen, and I’ve been through a lot of parks in Washington and Idaho,” she said.
“How wonderful the park has been, not only to Dave, but to me.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo
MEMO: Saturday’s People is a regular Valley Voice feature profiling remarkable individuals in the Valley. If you know someone who would be a good profile subject, please call editor Mike Schmeltzer at 927-2170.
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