Fairfield’s Jim Miller, gifted financier and community champion, dies at 83

Jim Miller, at left, is pictured with his son, Fairfield Mayor Steve Miller. Jim Miller had privately and publicly contributed time and money to community causes. He died Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. He was 83. PROVIDED

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Jim Miller, at left, is pictured with his son, Fairfield Mayor Steve Miller. Jim Miller had privately and publicly contributed time and money to community causes. He died Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. He was 83. PROVIDED

Miller worked nearly 4 decades for Cincinnati Financial, a founding member of the Fairfield Community Foundation.

Jim Miller was a philanthropist, gifted financier and community champion, but he would be the last one to say so.

Those who knew him best described him as humble and grateful with a witty sense of humor. Miller died Tuesday in his part-time home of Florida after an illness. He was 83.

Fairfield Mayor Steve Miller said his father lived by the biblical philosophy of being charitable and modest about his accomplishments, which included volunteering with Fairfield youth baseball and football and participation in the Hamilton and Fairfield chambers of commerce.

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“He just never felt it was important that people know what he did,” Steve Miller said. “He believed in doing the right thing and nobody needed to know. We always joked that the only two entities that need to know what we do are God and the IRS.”

Miller’s modesty was summed up by a speech he gave when named to the Fairfield Community Foundation’s Wall of Fame in October 2019.

“When dad got up there to accept the presentation he said, ‘My first thought was I don’t deserve this.’ And then he said, ‘I guess there’s a lot of people feel that I do, so thank you,’” said Steve Miller. “That was pretty much his speech.”

Miller was born on July 17, 1937, and raised in New Lexington, Ohio. He graduated from Capital Unversity and had a brief stint in the U.S. Army, his family said. Miller moved to Hamilton to work for Ohio Casualty, then started with Cincinnati Financial in 1966.

He and his wife Darlene were married on May 17, 1964, in Hamilton, and have four children, Steve, Scott Miller, Angie Brown and Stephanie Gonya. His family moved to Fairfield in 1970.

Two years after moving to Fairfield, he founded Cincinnati Financial’s investment department to manage its $64 million portfolio.

“He grew that portfolio to more than $10 billion before he retired in 2003,” said Steve Johnston, Cincinnati Financial’s chairman, president and chief executive officer. “Jim took the same relationship-based approach to investing that is a hallmark of our insurance business.”

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Cincinnati Financial Vice President Mike Abrams worked for Miller for about 15 years and said that one “never had to guess where you stood with Jim.”

“Jim, the one thing he taught everyone that worked for him, he wanted people that worked hard,” said Abrams. “He definitely led by example.”

Miller took his investing experience to assist the then-upstart Fairfield Community Foundation in 1999, said Betsy Hope, the foundation’s first executive director. Miller was a founding member of the foundation and a former board member, and worked to get the foundation off to a strong start, she said.

“Jim was just a big resource for the foundation,” said Hope, who is now the Oxford Community Foundation executive director. “He was just so committed to establishing a community foundation.”

She said Miller was so gifted at finance that “he could see a situation, and like a knife through butter, looked at it, evaluated it, summed it up and knew what to do very easily.”

He remained involved with the Community Foundation even after he retired and living half-time in Florida, said Fairfield Community Foundation Executive Director Linda Yarger.

“He was always available,” she said.

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