|James “Butch” Miller helped renovate the Paxton Campus in Leesburg for the Arc of Loudoun. Courtesy Photo|
On July 11, The Aurora School dedicated its main building to James E. “Butch” Miller, who was instrumental in the renovations of Paxton Campus in Leesburg for The Arc of Loudoun, an advocacy program for people with disabilities and their families.
Miller succumbed to esophageal cancer the morning that the building was renamed in his honor. Jennifer Lassiter, executive director of The Arc of Loudoun, said they learned of the diagnosis two months earlier, which prompted them to memorialize Miller's legacy.
“[The Aurora School building] is a very unique design,” said Lassiter. “It's specifically designed for students with autism, and Butch made that happen.”
The Arc of Loudoun created The Aurora School, which moved onto the Paxton Campus in 2009. The land is part of the Paxton Memorial for Convalascent Children created in 1921 by Rachel Paxton as a memorial to her daughter, Margaret A. Paxton.
Miller and Lassiter teamed up for the land's first renovation. An old gym was stripped to its bones and rebuilt as The Aurora School with the needs of the students in mind.
“Butch was hired to work with me in renovating the property,” said Lassiter. “Kind of like a checks and balances situation. I had the vision of what needed to be done for the kids with disabilities. Butch was in charge of making sure we were getting the best value.”
The Arc of Loudoun signed a lease with Paxton Campus in February 2008. Bill Hanes, trustee for the Margaret Paxton Memorial and good friend of Miller, said he received a surplus of contractor bids with a large price variance before renovation began. At a loss for which to pick, he called up Miller.
“The first name that came to mind was my best buddy [Miller], because he was in construction,” said Hanes. “He was the quintessential expert in all areas of construction. I called him up and said, 'can you come up here and help me decide what the variance is and where to go from here?' And he did.”
After some time, he convinced Miller to come on board with the project as the Owner's Representative for the Trust. He oversaw all aspects of Aurora's construction from financing to finishing touches.
“He became motivated by the Paxton Trust,” said Hanes. “Butch took on the real spirit of Rachel Paxton's creation of a trust for needy children … And he became an enthusiastic supporter of Aurora School and everything that it stood for.”
After that, Miller worked with Lassiter on the renovation of more buildings for The Arc of Loudoun's other services on Paxton Campus, like Maggie's Closet, a clothing store run by volunteers and people with disabilities.
After graduating from Virginia Tech, Miller went on to work his way up in various construction companies. He finally retired in 2002 and lived with his wife, Marlene, in Northern Virginia.
“He was an all around good guy,” said Hanes. “And he was widely loved. His funeral will be Saturday, and I'm expecting it to be the biggest they've ever had.”
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