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The Town of Tonawanda, in case you didn't know the motto, is a great place to live, work and play.

You can argue about whether there are better places in Western New York to live and work, but I defy you to win an argument about whether there is a better place to play.

Thank E. William Miller for that.

The longtime Town Board member, who didn't invent the idea of municipal recreation programs but never stopped working to perfect it, died last week at 86. I haven't heard whether anyone wants to build something in his memory, but why bother? Monuments to his legacy abound.

He will live on in the fairways at Sheridan and Brighton golf courses, on the base paths of dozens of baseball diamonds, in the warm air at the Paddock Golf Dome and the cool water of outdoor pools, on the ice rinks at Lincoln and Brighton parks and in the sweat of people exercising at the Aquatic and Fitness Center.

If you're having fun in the town, chances are that Bill Miller had something to do with it.

For 30 years, he championed the town's parks and recreation offerings by serving as chairman of that committee. The town already had many of the facilities it has today when he began serving on the Town Board in 1973, but on Miller's watch and with the support of the rest of the board, some were improved, and others were added.

• When the old outdoor Delaware Pool on Sheridan Drive needed too much work to keep it viable, it was replaced with the Aquatic and Fitness Center.

• With hockey booming in popularity and ice time becoming scarcer, roofs were added to the two existing rinks at Lincoln and Brighton.

• Not content to be a golf destination with two of the most affordable courses in the region, the town built a driving range and a golf dome so that duffers could get in their hacks regardless of the weather.

• Because not all boaters can afford a marina spot, the town added a boat launch and docks on the Niagara River.

In these austere times, with local government being forced to choose where to cut and how to get by with fewer employees and services, elected officials no longer spend as much time with the idea of recreation as they once did. That's not a criticism, really. When the choice is between police officers and park offerings, it really isn't much of a choice.

But Miller didn't see recreation as a municipal luxury. Because he was a family man himself, and because he was fortunate enough as a youth to spend his summers swimming, sailing and fishing at Crystal Beach, Ont., he knew that young families would gravitate to a community where there was always something fun and affordable to do.

“He relished the fact that the Town of Tonawanda, occupied by 'hardworking, common folk,' could offer superior recreational facilities and programs typically reserved for the elite or upper crust of society,” his son, Gary Miller, said.

Tonawanda, like all first-ring suburbs, is getting smaller and older. It will be difficult in coming years for the town to keep its renowned recreation programs and services functioning.

Here's hoping that elected officials find a way. As Miller knew, communities function best when they remember to start with fun.

email: bandriatch@buffnews.com