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News » Farewell to the ultimate Utah guy

Farewell to the ultimate Utah guy

Farewell to the ultimate Utah guy
Larry Miller, the ultimate Utah guy, was laid to rest Saturday in a nice view plot in the upper section of the Salt Lake Cemetery. Just above is a perfect view of the home he shared with his wife, Gail. Just below is the Salt Lake skyline, dominated as always by the city's two signature landmarks, the LDS Temple and the big downtown arena where the Jazz play Basketball. It's hard to envision a more appropriate resting place for a man who not only was a faithful member of the church that runs the temple but who built the arena that Jazz fans will tell you is pretty sacred itself.

Few have trod the path between those two shrines any more adroitly than Larry Miller, whose loyalty to everything he touched around here was legendary. Like the rest of us, he knew it isn't always an easy path to walk. Not in this culture. One of my enduring memories of him is seeing him pacing outside the Delta Center during a Sunday playoff game, wearing a suit and tie instead of his trademark khakis and golf shirt and refusing to go inside because, well, it was the Holy Sabbath and, for another well, what if his showing up might somehow screw up the Jazz's chances? For all his car sales and celebrity status and racetracks and movie theaters and monuments and millions in the bank and philanthropy, Larry reminded all of us of ? us. It brought out thousands to stand in line to hug his wife and mourn with his family at his viewing Friday night, and it brought out thousands more for the funeral Saturday afternoon held in The House That He Built. They didn't show up just because he had hired them or fired them (Greg Ostertag was there), or because he'd loaned them money or they shared a common interest. They showed up because in the process of building an empire that benefited just about all of us in this state in one way or another, he never stopped being one of us. Everybody, especially Utahns, could relate to Larry Miller. He was like we'd be if we were him. Or we liked to hope so. Even when he messed up, like when he mixed it up with those fans from Denver after a Jazz-Nuggets game, we understood. It was a church ball thing. ? And who couldn't relate to the story Larry's son Greg told at the funeral about riding in the car with his dad to get some lunch. They had just left a meeting discussing plans for building the $80 million Delta Center. Larry, so the story goes, wanted to eat at Siegfried's, the downtown German deli. But then he drove right past a parking meter and open parking space right in front of Siegfried's. "Change your mind?" asked Greg. "No," said Larry. "I'm looking for a meter with some time left on it." To me, he epitomized Rudyard Kipling's famous phrase in "If" ? "If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, Or walk with kings, nor lose the common touch." Otherwise, explain the woman in the purple Jazz windbreaker standing at attention at the graveyard Saturday next to NBA commissioner David Stern. ? Or the line of Shelby Cobras parked next to the stretch limos. In the end ? and a too-soon end brought on at least partially by not always eating what he should (something else more than one of us around here can relate to) ? he leaves a legacy of sticking by his culture and his friends with a loyalty uncommon by almost anyone else's standards. Jerry Sloan is a good example. For 20 years he's remained head coach of the Utah Jazz ? Larry's coach ? while 225 other head coaches have come and gone in the NBA. It all made for quite a send-off for the uncommon common man Saturday when he was buried not only just below the mansion where he last lived, but just around the corner from the house on Columbus Street, north of the Capitol, where he grew up. His grandfather, William Wallace Horne, one of his favorite people in the world ? the H. in Larry H. stands for Horne ? was sexton of the Salt Lake Cemetery when Larry was born. Yet another reminder of how deep and close his roots grew. He never really left them, nor for the 64 years he was here did he leave any of us. Lee Benson's columns runs Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Please send e-mail to

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: March 2, 2009


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