Remembering Van Miller

I remember working Medtrades when my only reliable meal of the day was breakfast.

There was no time to leave the show floor at lunch to stand in mile-long lines for a convention center burger. There might be a very late dinner, after the expo hall closed, after they turned off the lights and security shooed away those talking in darkened aisles. But more likely, it was a couple of hors d’oeuvres grabbed at evening receptions, and going to bed a little hungry because a few hours of sleep were worth more than a late-night sandwich.

That’s why an invitation to VGM’s Medtrade pancake breakfast was such a treasure.

The breakfast, of course, was certainly not intended for famished reporters. The event was for VGM members, and its highlight was an industry update on legislation and funding.

But before the update, there were pancakes. Buttermilk, banana, blueberry, chocolate chip, light and hot off a smoking griddle, flipped before your eyes like an early-morning daydream. Eggs, bacon, butter, maple syrup. No matter how dire the industry updates were, those pancakes made everything go down a little easier.

After one blissful breakfast, I went to the VGM booth to thank VP of Communications Carolyn Cole. She replied, “Van is very serious about his pancakes.”

Van was VGM founder/CEO Van G. Miller, an industry giant who, I learned that day, was fanatical about good pancakes. He insisted that the chefs cooking for his members be experts. Carolyn encouraged me to talk to Mr. Miller directly, though I’m generally not a talk-to-the-CEO kind of person.

But buoyed by maple syrup, I ventured up to Mr. Miller. He faced me with a wide grin as I thanked him. “I’m glad you liked the pancakes!” he said. “Glad you could come!”

That was the only time I talked to Van Miller. Still, I thought I knew him by how employees talked about him, how much he cared about little details like pancakes, and how generous he was even to those like me, a hungry reporter who wasn’t even a member of VGM.

Last week, Carolyn sent a letter to say she’d be retiring at the end of October. I called her to hear her voice, and to once more rhapsodize about those pancakes. We laughed.

A few days later, I’m inexplicably writing about Van Miller’s passing on Sunday, and his awards, and how much he invested in his employees and his community.

But I’m really thinking about pancakes, and how gestures, large and small, can resonate and mean so much more.

Thank you, Mr. Miller, for your contributions to home care and for holding this industry’s providers so close to your heart. Your industry will miss you.

About the Author

Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management. She can be reached at

Referrals and Prescriptions podcast