OCEAN CITY – The resort area, famous for its generosity in times of crisis and sorrow, will be called on to rally again next weekend, this time for a family with roots in Ocean City that recently suffered a terrible tragedy.
Jamie Miller and his wife Renee Roissier Miller lived and worked in the Ocean City area before moving first to Alaska and later to Tennessee. The couple met while attending Salisbury University and made Ocean City their home in the 1980s. Jamie was raised in Ocean City and attended Ocean City Elementary and later graduated from Stephen Decatur High School, while Renee was from Laurel, Del.
The couple started their journey together in Ocean City, where Jamie worked as a contractor and helped build several iconic structures in the resort area including the now dismantled water slide on 64th Street and several elements of Frontier Town. In fact, Jamie also worked as the general manager at Frontier Town for several years.
Renee was a fitness buff and was a “little All-American” on Salisbury’s varsity field hockey team before embarking on a career in the fitness industry in Ocean City. She worked at different times at the Sheraton Health Club and Ocean City Health and Racquet Club as a personal trainer. She excelled in her own fitness training and bodybuilding and won state, regional and national titles.
In 1984, Jamie and Renee pulled up stakes and moved about as far away from Ocean City as they could get when Jamie took a job with a big oil company in Alaska. They were married in Anchorage in 1985 and started a family that would grow by leaps and bounds over the next decade or so. The young family pulled up stakes again in 1994 when they moved to eastern Tennessee.
By then, the couple had several kids of their own and adopted quite a few more as they started life anew in Tennessee, but Jamie continued to work in Alaska on the North Slope at Prudhoe Bay. He would work for two weeks at a time for British Petroleum (BP) in a remote part of Alaska and return home to Tennessee for two weeks at a time to be with his growing family. Despite the great distance, their hearts were never far from Ocean City and the entire family, including nine children, returned to the resort each year to vacation and visit with family.
It was during one of Jamie’s stints in Alaska last month when he got news that sent the family’s life into a tailspin. After not being able to contact Renee, Jamie called authorities in Tennessee to have them check on her and the tragedy began to unfold. Monroe County detectives learned Renee had last been seen with a man named Kenneth Erick Waldrop, who had been dating the Miller’s oldest daughter, according to one report.
When detectives contacted Waldrop, he led them to a remote area in neighboring McMinn County where Renee’s body was found in a red convertible in the woods. Waldrop later admitted shooting Renee and driving her body across county lines to McMinn County where she was found.
The tragedy has now left Jamie with no wife and no mother for the couple’s nine children, from the youngest in kindergarten to the oldest now in college. Clearly Jamie cannot continue to work in Alaska for two weeks at a time and is currently seeking work closer to the family’s home in Tennessee, where the children are rooted in their schools with friends and a large safety net.
When news of the tragedy reached the couple’s former home in Ocean City, the call went out to rally for the family and the community has responded as usual. To that end, a fundraiser-memorial has been planned for next Sunday, April 19, at Seacrets from 3-8 p.m. The event will feature a wide variety of activities for both adults and children and Jamie and his nine kids will be in attendance.
The point of the event is to raise some funds to help the family transition into new circumstances without Renee. Perhaps more importantly, the memorial fundraiser presents an opportunity for Jamie and his children to reconnect with family and friends in his former hometown.
Jamie’s sister Cathie Miller-Fagerstrom this week pointed out next Sunday’s event is as much about the support and love for the family as it is funds raised.
“We’re interested in having anybody that wants to come out and help in any way they can,” she said. “This is not a beg-a-thon. Jamie’s a proud man and our family is very proud and this isn’t intended to strictly be a charity event.”
The benefit will be a family-oriented event with plenty of activities for the kids including face-painting, balloon twisting and coloring contests. For the adults, several local bands will be performing, along with food, a live auction, 50-50 raffle and lots of door prizes along with happy hour drink prices. A donation will be collected at the door from adults, but admission for children is free.