On Sept. 2, 1945, Navy officer and Parkville native Bill Miller was aboard USS Mount Olympus, which was parked next to the USS Missouri. Japanese representatives had boarded the Missouri to sign a formal surrender ending World War II.
Miller had just turned 20.
He blew out the candles on his cake June 27 of that year, a birthday he shares with his twin sister, Bettie Noland.
The Parkville twins celebrated their 90th birthdays a few weeks ago.
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Back then, Noland was keeping busy in Parkville with her own efforts to pitch in with the war effort. She knew her brother was tough, but the severity of the conflict wasn’t lost on her.
“The only time we worried about Bill was when it was serious,” Noland said.
“We’re very, very close; much closer than I am to my other brothers and sisters,” she added.
The Parkville twins were raised on a farm just west of Parkville, which instilled in them an early zeal for hard work.
While her brother listed in the service straight out of high school, Noland was recruited to work at the U.S. war ration program, limiting the purchase of consumer goods like food and fuel while working at the Kansas City post office until the end of World War II.
Speaking from his home in Palm Springs, Calif., Miller’s memory of the day the war ended is still fresh at 90.
“I was happy to serve. It was just an experience that I had along with thousands,” Miller said.
Miller shrugs off being seen as special for his role in the effort.
“I was there serving with thousands,” he said.
His twin sister echoed the sentiment.
“Stuff like that didn’t even enter our minds. It sounds silly, but that’s the truth,” she said. “We were farm kids.”
After the war, Miller returned to the family’s 600-acre farm west of Parkville.
Until the land was seized in eminent domain bid to make way for Interstate 435, Miller worked the land alongside his day job as a mail carrier. From 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., he’d be at the Parkville post office. After he got off work and until 10 p.m., he worked the family farm.
Miller retired from the post office in the mid ’70s and stopped farming shortly after due to health reasons. He left the farm for more agreeable temperatures in California.
Noland followed suit and now lives in Florida.
In conversation, Miller is deliberate with his words and speaks with an easy Midwest cadence. When asked what his secret is to living a long life, he paused, not for dramatic or grandstanding, but to find the right words for what is effectively an existential question.
“I was just used to hard working. You never had anything handed to you,” Miller said. “When I got out of the service … I couldn’t live off my folks or bum around. I had to have income.”
That never changed when the Missouri River flooded his land as it did often or when crops failed to materialize.
A strong work ethic has also been part of Noland’s life. After she worked at the post office, she had an extensive career at Trans World Airlines (TWA).
Noland said staying physically active also helps her stay youthful. She was a golfer, bowler as well as a basketball player, a sport where she met a spectator who endeared himself to her and would later become her husband, Carroll Noland.
Miller’s advice: be good and mind the rule of law.
“You gotta respect other people and abide by the rules and regulations of where you’re at,” Miller said. “Be a good citizen.”