Mitch Miller dies at 99

Famed musician owned home on Seven Mile Beach for years

One of the Cayman Islands’ first
celebrity homeowners, American musician Mitch Miller, died Saturday, 31 July,
at age 99 in New York City.

The musician, who became a
household name in America in the 1960s with the television show Sing Along with
Mitch, bought land and built a house on the northern part of Seven Mile Beach
in 1964, at the height of his fame.

A popular shore dive site called
Mitch Miller Reef was named after him here.

Mr. Miller was known for his
versatility, being revered for his abilities in both classical and popular
music.  His compositions also crossed
over into cinema and he recorded the famous soldiers’ whistling march in the
film Bridge over the River Kwai. He was awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement
Award in 2000.

Chris Johnson, who came to Cayman
in 1968, said Mr. Miller bought about 550 feet of Seven Mile Beach property
with his wife and her two sisters and their husbands. He said they built three
homes and two cottages on what became known as the ‘Miller Compound’. In 1977,
Mr. Johnson bought one of the homes that had been separated out of the
compound. He remembers Mr. Miller being there.

“He was always coming down and
staying, up until the ’90s I think,” he said.

Heber Arch of the construction
company Arch and Godfrey said he worked on the house owned by veterinarian Dr.
Lear Grimmer in the Miller Compound when he was a teenager before going off to
college. That house, which was made entirely of timber, used a lot of mahogany
and other exotic woods.

Mr. Arch said his father built Mr.
Miller’s house and that he was sometimes on that job site as a boy.

“I remember seeing [Mr. Miller] and
knowing who he was, but I really didn’t know him,” Mr. Arch said.

In 1972, Mr. Miller was interviewed
by the Northwester Magazine and spoke about his concerns about the rapid
changes occurring on Grand Cayman at the time and the seeming lack of sound
planning. He also expressed concern about increasing littering on the Islands
and the lack of legislation to protect Seven Mile Beach from the possibilities
of pollution.