on November 12, 2013 - 12:01 AM
, updated November 12, 2013 at 2:11 AM
(Oct. 17, 1953 — Nov. 7, 2013
Michael Miller of Amherst, who spent years on the radio in Buffalo and St. Catharines, where he was known as Iron Mike Bensson, died Thursday from esophageal and stomach cancer. He was 60.
Miller had been at CHTZ 97.7 FM in Hamilton, Ont. since 1995. Previously he worked at Buffalo stations WBYR (now WLKK) and WUFX (now WEDG), as well as at WJJL-AM in Niagara Falls, and worked as a DJ at many local clubs.
“It takes a certain kind of guy to be crowned ‘The Iron One,’” but some of us were lucky enough to know one person that fits that description perfectly. … Many of us lost a very good friend,” HTZ-FM program director Bruce Gilbert wrote about Miller.
Listeners saddened by the news of Miller’s death placed bouquets of flowers on the front steps and near the sign of the radio station where he worked, and many expressed their sorrow on the station’s Website.
Miller, who was born in Buffalo, was also mourned by former Western New York co-workers who became lifelong friends.
Tony Magoo, who now works in Mississippi, first met Miller in the mid 1970s when they worked for a mobile DJ service called Moving Music Machine. Magoo started at WJJL in the fall of 1976 and Miller joined him there about a year later. Magoo said, “He used to tell people that he heard me on the air and he thought, ‘If that idiot can do that, so can I.’”
In 1986, Magoo recommended to program director and operations manager John “JP” Piccillo that Miller be hired to do the morning show with him at WBYR, 107.7 “The Bear.” The pair worked there for a few years, then worked together again at WUFX, 103.3 FM, “The Fox,” said Magoo.
The two worked together there from about 1989 until 1992. “We had a hell of a team there,” said Magoo, who is writing the eulogy he will deliver for his friend at services planned for the weekend.
“We were both in radio for the right reasons, we both loved music,” said Magoo. “Mike had this real hard exterior, but I don’t think people really understood his taste in music and his love for his family, his wife Amy. He and Amy had been together forever. His on-air thing in St. Catharines was the tough guy, ‘Iron Mike’ Bensson,” said Magoo. “But if you look at pictures of him hanging with old people and babies, that’s the real Mike.”
Piccillo, who works the midday shift at WGRF 96.9 FM, 97 Rock, called Miller “one of the great personalities I’ve ever known or worked with, not only on the radio but off air, too. He was one of the coolest cats I ever knew. We’d sit in my office and talk; I liked talking music with Mike.
“He was a big music guy, he definitely knew his music, everything from the rock that we played to the heavier rock he went on to play at CHTZ-FM to funk and Motown. He was just a real good broadcaster, really personable on the air. He could come up with some crazy catchphrases, and he connected with his audience, and I’m very proud to say I was the one who gave him his first job here in the Buffalo market. I’ve hired quite a few people in this market over the years and he was one of the great ones. Not only did he do great work with Tony Magoo, but he became a great friend.”
Piccillo said the two stayed in touch and he saw him just a month ago when Miller was in Hospice care. “I’m glad I got a chance to see him one more time,” Piccillo said. “He was fighting right to the end, talking about going back on the air. I got a chance to give him a kiss and tell him I loved him. He was a real good guy who was loved by many people.”
Miller is survived by his wife of 23 years, Amy K. (nee Stapleton) Miller; three daughters, Andrea Miller, Jennifer Miller and Trish Beeman; a son, John Coughlin; four brothers, Daniel Miller, Gary Miller, Benedict Miller III and Matthew Miller; and three sisters, Linda Coppola, Pamela Dennis and Jill Cohen; and seven grandchildren .
A funeral service will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Tonawanda Chapel of Amigone Funeral Home, 2600 Sheridan Drive at Parker Boulevard.
A benefit planned since early October to help Miller’s family with medical expenses will be held from 2 to 6 p.m. Nov. 24 upstairs at Casa Di Pizza, 477 Elmwood Ave. Besides food and drink, The cost is $20 and tickets will be sold at the door. Information is available on the Facebook page titled “Remembering Iron Mike Bensson.”