The Coastal Star

Coastal Star: Kitchen heat doesn’t disturb history-minded baker

John Miller prepares a Key lime pie with his sons Luke, 13, and Jack, 15, at their Delray Beach home. The boys’ brownies won first place at last year’s Real Men Bake. Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star

By Jane Smith

The chairman of the Delray Beach Historic Preservation Board grows a Key lime tree in his backyard, just like the one his parents grew in their Swinton Avenue yard.
Last year, Chairman John Miller used the limes to make mini Key lime tarts in the Real Men Bake contest. He won second place. His two sons, who had helped him in previous years, baked their own dessert. Their s’mores brownies won first place.
“It was the cuteness factor,” Miller said of his sons’ victory. “We bake two or three times a week.”
Miller met his wife, Karen, because his co-worker was so impressed with his baking abilities that she introduced him to her college friend.
That’s when he learned women like men who can bake, he said.
Miller, 50, is still pondering what to make for the March 19 event at Old School Square. He has to bake 200 pieces for the eighth annual Real Men Bake and Rock at the Sock Hop.
The Delray Beach native reminisces about his carefree childhood, filled with biking to the beach, fishing in Lake Ida for bass and bluegills, and painting in the annual Halloween contest on Atlantic Avenue. Each child received a 2-by-3-foot section of storefront window to paint, he said. The painters were judged by age groups.
Miller serves on the Historic Preservation Board to help preserve that small-town feel. “People are moving here because of the way the city looks,” he said. “It’s important to preserve that.”
The board twice turned down the Midtown Delray project last year. In June, Miller said, “It results in the Disney-fication of Delray, allowing an artificial, contrived, homogeneous, sanitized and oversized development right in the middle of our most significant historic district.”
Midtown Delray would sit on South Swinton Avenue in the southern half of the Old School Square Historic Arts District and include the Sundy House, home of Delray Beach’s first mayor. Less than 2 percent of the city’s properties are part of historic districts, Miller said.
“If we can’t save this historic district, we might as well resign our seats on the board,” he said in December.
Miller became a local history buff because his great-grandfather and grandfather were Delray Beach mayors. His great-grandfather was the first volunteer fire chief in the city.
“I like to be involved,” he said. “I prefer to stay behind the scenes, not run for office.”
He belongs to the Delray Beach Historical Society and co-chaired its 2016 Fish Tales! exhibit.
“I provided a lot of fishing insight,” Miller said.
He lent old photos and old fishing equipment for the exhibit and built display tables that the Historical Society still uses today.
Miller owns a 25-foot SeaCraft center console boat with his brother. “We usually have fresh fish a couple times a week if the weather is good enough to go out,” he said.
Miller, who works for 3M Inc. in Delray Beach, also served on the city’s comprehensive plan steering committee. In 2016, he was among a group of 20 people invited to apply because of their knowledge about the community. The city will use the plan to map out how it wants to grow in 13 areas, such as housing, historic preservation and education.
He hopes his boys will catch his volunteer spirit.
“I try to involve my sons,” Miller said, “but my wife keeps reminding me that we don’t have to sign up for everything.” 

If You Go
What: Real Men Bake and Rock at the Sock Hop fundraiser (including hula-hoop contest)
When: 6-9 p.m. March 19
Where: Old School Square Field House, 51 N. Swinton Ave., Delray Beach
Sponsor: GFWC Woman’s Club of Delray Beach
Cost: $35
Benefits: Local nonprofits that serve women and children

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