Straight Talk Interview: Diane Miller
FA: Where and when were you born?
Diane: I was born in the small town of Corry in Northwestern Pennsylvania during Word War II in 1943. My maiden name was Sawyer. No relation to the famous nightly newscaster with the same name.
FA: What was your family life like growing up?
Diane: I never knew my mother, she died when I was two. My father had a difficult time with my mothers passing so I was raised by my grandparents. As a child I always loved to play cowboys and Indians and use to dress up in my western cloths.
That was the time of westerns on TV with Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. Later I use to watch The Range Rider and Yancy Derringer staring Jock Mahoney, never realizing that some day I would do an interview with him for American Archer and he would phone once in awhile just to chat.
FA: Can you tell us a bit about your family, parents, siblings?
Diane: My father remarried when I was 6 and I have one half brother. Incidentally his name is Tom Sawyer and his mother’s nickname was Fin ( like Huck Fin). I always thought that was quite funny.
Fin passed at the age of 46 shortly after the First Corry Archery Festival, one of the most successful PAA out door events for over 7 years in the 60’s and 70’s. We later named the championship trophy in her memory. She also loved archery and was quite an amateur competitor.
Even though I was raised by my grandparents, my Dads family lived just up the street, and we would all spend most holidays together. Christmas was always special and they always made it a production for Tom and I. Apparently photography was always a passion of mine and one Christmas my Dad photographed me asleep with his Camera waiting for Santa to come down the chimney. One of my favorite gifts was a ventriloquist dummy I named Jerry.
FA: Tell us a little bit about when you thought you might want to be a ventriloquist.
Diane: I remember seeing Paul Winchell and Jerry Mahoney on the Ed Sullivan Show at the time I thought that might be something I would like to try.
After my parents realized I was serious and I began performing before different organizations; they purchased a professional vent figure that was made to my specifications. I named him Waldo and I performed all over the north east area. I was even invited to appear on the Ted Mack amateur hour, but didn’t want to go to New York City. I was only 14 and had never been to far from home. I often wondered what my life would have been like if I had taken the chance. Waldo retired after 20 years of performing, but last year made an appearance at the Pope and Young 50th Anniversary in honor of Glenn St. Charles. Only because I made the promise to Glenn that I would do so. Waldo was old, not that I am not, I was afraid maybe he might fall apart or maybe one of the strings would break. Actually I wasn’t sure who might fall apart first. But everything went well and I was very honored and proud to be a part of Glenn’s memorial celebration.
FA: Tell us about your schooling? How far in school did you go and what was your major or favorite subject?
Diane: I never went to college, just graduated from high school and probably what you might call the School of Hard Knocks. I can’t say I applied myself to the best of my ability. I took the commercial secretarial course because I thought I would be working for my fathers business. My Dad was a professional photographer and I had already been working with him from the time I was twelve years old. Together we captured many ribbons for outstanding photography at state conventions. I continued working at his studio until I was 27. I credit my photography skills and what little writing know
how I might have to some of the things I learned from my Dad.
FA: Did you enjoy sports?
Diane: I spent a lot of time entertaining at school assemblies and rallies with my little vent friend, Waldo. But I did like sports even though girls did not have all the opportunities to participate, like today. When I was in school we formed our own girl’s basketball team and traveled to other schools, but it was not funded by the school. We also played the boys when there were no girl’s teams available. I became interested in archery at that time, even though it was not offered in school.
I also helped my Dad manage a minor league boys baseball team when I was 16, another first and I remember reading a headline in one the local papers that said, “Wait till Casey Stengel hears about this.”
FA: I know you were a competitive archer. When did you first discover an interest in archery?
Diane: When I was 14. We had a local archery range not to far from my home and I use to walk around the course, when no one was there, just looking for arrows. After I found a few, (of course they were all different sizes and lengths) I asked a friend if I could shoot his bow and give the sport a try. After realizing it was very difficult to hit anything with mismatched equipment I decided to try it the right way; I think that is when my 1/8th Cherokee heritage started to emerge. When the other kids were playing school sports I was at the archery range.
FA: How did you do on the tournament scene?
Diane: From 1958 to1978, I pretty much lived and breathed archery. It was definitely a very important part of my life. As many archers of that time, we wanted to be the best we could be. I practiced very hard. My Dad would pick me up after school and we would go to the local archery range.
During those competitive years I won numerous state and regional events. In 1963 my dedication paid off and I won the Pennsylvania State Amateur Instinctive championship title. The record stood for many years. During the 60’s I also captured the MidAtlantic Field Championship held in Watkins Glen, NY. That was the time when my friendships began with so many of the well known archers who have been inducted into the AHOF.
FA: Who was your mentor? Who did you admire during your days competing in archery?
Diane: Dave Staples was my mentor and he taught me so many things. During the early 70’s we published a magazine called Pro Archer, the official magazine of the PAA which later became American Archer. My background is the printing business; I have owned and operated Budget Wise Printing in Union City, PA since 1972.
FA: Did you ever get into bowhunting?
Diane: When I was younger I did go deer hunting. We have some great whitetail in northwestern PA, and some of our archery friends from around the country would come to our house during bowhunting season. Hall of Famer, Bill Bednar from Ohio and National Field Champion, Dickie Roberts from Michigan. Great friends Gwen and Lee Learn of Pittsburgh were also among those archers that spent quite a bit of time with us in the Pennsylvania woods close to our home. As I got older I realized I enjoyed hunting and photographing wildlife with a camera more than a weapon. I would have to say with a bow I have not been successful, but with a camera I have photographed animals all over the world and to me that is very rewarding.
FA: You were married and sadly your husband passed away. How did you two meet?
Diane: Actually Jim and I met in 1957 when he was 13 and I was 14. Believe it or not it was at an archery range. He caught my eye immediately and he became my best friend. Then my boyfriend and we were married when we were 21. He definitely was the best part of my life, a life we shared together for 36 years until his passing in 2001.
FA: Did you and Jim have any children?
Diane: No, but that was our choice. We always seem to be too busy and too involved with other things to settle down. But we did share our home with numerous unusual friends throughout the years. A couple of favorites were a parrot named Bogie and a Java Macaque named “Buddy” who came to us when he was 3 weeks old. Some of our best friends were animals and we had regular visits from a special fellow named “Bubby”.
FA: Were you both into archery at the same time?
Diane: Yes, at first Jim wasn’t quite as dedicated as I, but as he became more involved with refereeing and the Professional Archers Association he really enjoyed it. After meeting Dave Staples at the national field championships in 1964, I decided to apply for membership in the Professional Archers Association. As time went by Jim joined also. At first I liked the competition but then photography, writing and administration was where my passion was.
The first job, Dave got me into was being the official photographer for the PAA. That led to Promotional Director, tournament officiating, and writing. I wrote a column for Archery Magazine after meeting Roy Hoff at one of the national tournaments. As time went by Jim became one of the leading referees on the PAA tour.
I was proud to have been the Tournament Director for the Corry Archery Festival as well as the Edinboro Pro-Am. Later I became the 2nd woman ever to serve on the PAA Board of Directors. I credit so much of our involvement in archery to Dave, then President of the PAA. He seemed to always have some kind of project for us to be involved in.
FA: During your PAA days are they any memories that stick out above others.
Diane: One memory I fondly recall was during the Edinboro Pro Am. A trophy was always given to “Archery Personality of the year”. The person was voted on by his or her peers and the participants at the event. I still have the bowl sitting on my mantel that was presented to me by George Helwig. Being presented by him even made it more special.
FA: How about a funny story.
Diane: During that same event I remember getting picked up by the state police for speeding on my way back to the tournament site. Our home was about 40 miles away and of all the things I could have forgotten to bring to the site that day were the target faces. As we started to prepare the field that morning about 6:00 am I couldn’t find the targets and realized they were still sitting at home on our kitchen table. I jumped in the car and raced off, got home grabbed the target faces and headed back to the tournament. Just 45 minutes from the start of the tournament and driving 85 miles an hour I suddenly heard a police siren. After listening to my story and luckily knowing the officer he helped me get to the tournament on time. But I still had to pay the fine.
One other funny story took place at the Cobo Hall tournament when Bear use to bring in personalities to promote the sport. I was the PAA Promotional Director at the time and I was scheduled to take photos for the news media. Two of the people I was suppose to take photos of were Jim Drury (who played the Virginian at the time) and Bill Shatner, who had not yet reached Star Trek fame. It was late in the evening and they both looked really tired after traveling all day so I suggested to Mr. Shatner that we wait until the next morning to do the shoot. That way they could be rested. WRONG! The next morning he looked worse but we went on with the camera session anyway. To this day, every time I see him on TV, I think of that tournament.
FA: I understand you both left the world of archery for awhile and took up dog sledding. How did you ever get into that sport and what happened there?
Diane: As with most everything we did we had to jump in with both feet, I was never happy to sit on the sidelines and watch. One day we happened to attend a a dogsled race in upstate New York. We met one of the mushers, we thought “this looks like fun” and within a year we had over 15 dogs and ran two sled teams. Sometimes we were competing against each other, but it was great fun. Then finally we got old and the dogs were also old and passing away so we moved on to other interests.
FA: And those interests were?
Diane: We traveled cross country on our motorcycles, played a lot of golf, enjoyed fishing and boating and traveled the globe. Our travels took us to such places as Australia, Borneo, New Guinea, Africa, Thailand, New Zealand (The most beautiful place on earth), the Amazon and many exotic places. In Borneo we traveled a river known for having the largest concentration of man-eating crocodiles in the world and in New Guinea we stayed with a tribe whose ancestor’s were cannibals.
I remember in the Amazon we got into a batch of piranhas and I thought. “What if I fell off the boat, I can’t swim.” Then I realized it wouldn’t really matter if I could swim or not, they would have me picked to the bone before I could even think about it.
Another time we were in Tahiti. Once again, I still couldn’t swim and everyone told us the water was so crystal clear that you could be in 100 feet of water and still see the bottom and it was something I just had to see. BUT, I was assured that outrigger canoes would not turn over and I would be perfectly safe. So off we went, camera and all. We were only 20 yards from shore when I moved the wrong way and over we went, I started screaming and everyone on the shore came running to save this American lady in distress. Then I remember my husband saying to me, “Stand up stupid, you're only in 2 feet of water.” I was always good at getting us into the darndest situations but Jim was always a good sport, and I would promise not to get us into any more trouble….. until next time.
FA: How did you become involved in the Archery Hall of Fame? I know my old friend Dave Staples was a driving force in the AHOF and you worked closely with Dave.
Diane: Like I mentioned before, after meeting Dave in 1964 we became friends and it continued until his passing in 2008. Jim and I had been out of archery for over 20 years but had kept in contact with many of our archery friends. I hadn’t talked to Dave for quite a few years, but after Jim’s passing he called one day and out of the blue asked if I would like to get involved with the Hall of Fame. Once again, after all this time, he had another job for me and he knew I needed something in my life. A purpose to go on. At first I refused because I wasn’t sure if I could do a good job. After five phone calls I finally said yes and that was when I became the Executive Director for the Hall of Fame. I never dreamed, at that time I would become so passionate about Dave’s dream. Nor did I realize he had more plans for me than I could fathom. When he passed, I realized he knew what he was doing and I had to, and will carry on with his mission.
FA: I’m going to pick on the relationship with Dave because I also know he meant a lot to Rich Walton as I know he also did you. Rich told me Dave, President of AHOF was a close personal friend from his early days at PSE. Dave owned Specter Archery in PA and then Images Group, Dave's PR Firm and their friendship grew to where he became a mentor to Rich in his advertising business. Rich told me that Dave had a way of gently getting inside your mind, seeing what you needed at any particular time and then helping you bring out your best. How would you describe Dave?
Diane: You hit the nail right on the head, Dave was always about everyone else, not himself. Many people are where they are today because of something Dave might have said or done for them. I have never met anyone quite like him. He will be remembered by so many in all walks of life for his compassion, his knowledge and his ability to read people.
FA: Tell us about your growth in the AHOF.
Diane: I am quite excited, after 3 years of waiting our museum is moving along nicely with a preview area already open to the public. This year we should be able to finish a large display area located upstairs in the Bass Pro Shop Complex in Springfield, Missouri. Dave’s dream is close to becoming a reality, we are all very excited about it.
FA: You have met and knew some of archery greats. Can you name a few of the ones you were most impressed with?
Diane: There are so many. Jim and I were in on the ground floor, so to speak, in the 1960’s when archery was in its infancy compared to what it is today. The Professional Archers Association was just beginning and all the prestigious people were a member at one time or another. Being the Promotional Director of the PAA allowed me to meet so many people up and personal. I would talk to people like Earl Hoyt, Karl Palmatier, Chuck Saunders, Al Henderson, and George Helwig, just to mention a few, on a regular basis. In fact I called Al “Uncle Al” and he even wrote a column for the Archery Magazine we published.
Jim and I even got one of our dogs from George Helwig. PAA President, Les Brown became another good friend as well and Chuck and Judy Jordan. We use to shoot at Suffield Archery Lanes in Ohio. It was owned by Bill and Edith Bednar. I remember Bill use to always kid me about what a sloppy release I had, of course that was before release aids. I remember Bill’s son Rick, when he was just a little boy and participating in the Akron Soapbox Derby. He is now a very successful businessman and is CEO of Ten Point. I first met Arlyne Rhode in 1964 at a national tournament and we have been friends ever since. We use to spend many a night at George and Betty Gardner’s during the Ann Marston Tournament. And of course Ann Clark has always been an inspiration and one of my idols. If I had half as much pep as she does today, I would be grinning. There is just not enough space to list all the great people that we met at that time in our lives.
FA: I know people often times are the back bone of an organization and yet often go unrecognized. You have always worked hard with the AHOF and I understand at the recent Pope & Young 50th anniversary you were singled out to receive some pretty high accolades. Can you tell us about them and what they meant to you?
Diane: After our induction ceremony I presented a powerpoint presentation in memory of Pope and Young Founder, Glenn St.Charles. I was quite proud of myself because I made it through without shedding a tear, but then after we were all done with the ceremony, Australia’s Archery Hall Of Fame Founder, Ian Fenton asked Hall of Fame President, MR James if he could say a few words.
I thought, “ Oh no, these Aussies can go on forever.” It was at that time he presented me with the Australian Archery Hall of Fame International Award. It read in recognition of her outstanding support in the promotion and establishment of the Australian Archery Hall of Fame and Museum, Inc. I have to admit I really didn’t know what to say, I felt very honored and the tears I had held back all evening were then running down my cheek. It was quite an honor and I was so proud to think I was instrumental in helping our neighbors from down under in getting their hall of fame started.
FA: I know you were very close to the great Founder of the Pope & Young Club, Glenn St. Charles. You told me once he would call you every night to just talk and share what he was having for dinner. Aside from the poignant poem you wrote on his passing you also put together a special power point tribute to Glenn that you presented at the Pope and Young meeting. I am hoping we can get this for our Bowhunting.net visitors but it left a room full of men teary eyed. Your creative nature is evident on the AHOF newsletters and web site but I have a feeling this tribute to Glenn was more than just another creative project. Am I right?
Diane: Yes, Glenn and I had a very special friendship that to this day I can’t explain. In 2006, I flew to Seattle to present him with the Karl Palmatier Award on behalf of the Archery Hall of Fame. I had never met Glenn, and I was quite nervous. I knew it was also close to his birthday so I decided to take a little present along, so I picked up a little moose with a bobbing head. I wasn’t sure if he would laugh or think it was stupid. But apparently it touched him and from that day, until the day he passed, he called me “Moose”.
I could set my clock by his nightly phone calls. We would talk about so many things, some things that I probably should not have known, but I was very honored that he knew his secrets were safe with me. I will always cherish those moments, and I am so proud to think he called me his friend.
FA: How does someone get indicted into the hall? How many people have been inducted?
Diane: There is a criteria one has to follow. An individual, through an archery organization; qualified archery historian; or AHF board of director member, may present for ballot consideration a deserving member of the archery community in the following categories: Bowhunter, Coach, Competitor, Contributor to the Sport, Educator, Influence on the Sport , Innovator/Inventor, and Lifetime Achievement. Then it's up to the Hall's electorate to closely consider these nominations. The Archery Hall of Fame now has approximately 70 electors drawn from the ranks of living inductees, board members, representatives of national archery organization, representatives of all supporting organizations, and members of the archery/bowhunting media.
FA: Going forward as Executive Director of the AHOF what programs and direction do you see the Hall taking?
Diane: In the future I see the Hall being one of the elite organizations in archery. In the last six years I have seen so many changes. Every day we receive requests from people who have found us on our website.www.archeryhalloffame.com. To be able to view a bio of all of our inductees and learn about our history and our mission has allowed so many who never heard of the Archery Hall of Fame to be able to learn what we are all about. We have recently started a Grassroots Supporters Campaign and are receiving quite a good response. The hall totally relies on donations to carry on our mission.
(Our Mission…It is the mission of The Archery Hall of Fame & Museum, Inc., to honor those outstanding members of the Archery Community through the process of induction into its Hall of Fame.
As an integral part of its existence, the Hall seeks to preserve the history and tradition of Archery and Bowhunting for future generations.) We are so excited with the progress of our museum in Springfield. The dreams we have had for over 40 year are now finally coming true. Dave would be very proud.
FA: As you look back over your life, what would you say are the major milestones or turning points?
Diane: I think my whole life has been full of milestones. But whenever one door closed another one opened. You have to make the best out of the cards you are dealt. When times get rough I can hear my husband say, “Just put one foot in front of the other”. I learned a lot from Jim, even though at the time, I never realized how wise he was.
FA: What’s been your single biggest challenge in life?
Diane: I think getting over my husbands passing. Actually after 10 years, I am still working on that.
FA: Being involved as you are and especially the Hall, what would you say is your most precious piece of archery memorabilia?
Diane: For the Hall, the day Dr. “Bert” Grayson opened his hand to me and was holding two of Ishi’s arrow heads from his personal collection and said. “Diane these are for you.” They are now displayed in our museum. Dr. Grayson was someone I met after becoming The Executive Director of the Hall of Fame. I spent time with him in Oregon going over his memorabilia and it was one experience I will never forget.
For me personally, the flowers and Birthday Card that Glenn St.Charles sent to me 3 days before he passed. His daughter told me it was the last thing he signed. To think he was thinking about me at a time like that just blew me away. The dried flowers and the card is framed and hanging on my living room wall.
FA: Looking back on your life, is there anything you would you have done differently?
Diane: I really don’t think so.
FA: Any regrets?
Diane: Not really.
FA: What are your plans for the future?
Diane: I really don’t have an answer for that question. I think I will just continue to go the way the wind blows.
FA: Any words of advice for us?
Diane: Live every day to the fullest. Make the most out of every day. Tell those you love how much they mean to you. We never know what is around the bend. It is always better to be sorry for something you said or did than for something you didn’t do. And remember, as my mentor Dave would say. It’s about the journey, not the destination and “The glass is always half full”.
FA: You are one of the nicest people I have ever met. How do you want people to remember you?
Diane: You make me feel very humble. The last 50 years have been one heck of a ride. I have been so fortunate to be at the right place at the right time, and to have been able to share my journey with so many wonderful people. I have been truly blessed. I hope people remember me as someone who tried to make a difference and perhaps helped to make a little part of the world a little better place for all living things.
For related Interviews:
For more please go to: Dave Staples
For more please go to: Glenn St. Charles
For more please go to: M.R. James
For more please go to: Ann Weber Hoyt
For more please go to: Ann Clark
For more please go to: Archery Hall of Fame