Faces in the Crowd: Jessi Miller

November 18, 2019

Jessi Miller
The Miller Family – Jessi, Kevin, Jadin, and Denise
Volleyball District Champions – Jessi Miller

November is a busy time of the year for Jessi Miller. In addition to her full-time job as a WIC nurse with the Health Department, along with the time needed to finish up her bachelor’s degree in nursing, November is the month when Jessi organizes the Marion Buck Pole to the delight of local hunters.

Along with her parents, Kevin and Denise, the Bontekoe family, and numerous other local volunteers, Jessi goes above and beyond to help put on a successful Marion Buck Pole each and every year at the Marion VFW. She took over as organizer for the event in 2012, and has helped make November 15th and 16th bigger and better with each passing season.

A 2011 Marion graduate, Jessi has always done her part to help out her local community. After all, it’s a community that – according to Jessi – helped raise her.

We caught up with Jessi recently where she filled us in on what’s been keeping her busy. We learned that Jessi Miller is so much more than just another face in the crowd.

Marion Press: What kept you busy growing up in Marion?
Jessi: Sports, sports, sports! When you live in a small-town community, it’s like everybody’s family. I still remember to this day, my sister and I – when we were younger – we were never allowed to cross Main Street or M-66 riding our bikes; we could ride our bikes anywhere in this quarter of town, but not go past.

One day, my parents said, “You guys can go to Valu Land – at that time it was Ashcraft’s – and get a loaf of bread, but you have 30 minutes and you have to be back.”

Well, we were stopped three times, and my parents got three phone calls because we had crossed Main Street! They said, “The girls were on the wrong side of town!” But it’s one of those things, where things have changed in society a lot – back then we could do that. Being in a small town like this, everybody knows everybody, but it’s also a good thing.

MP: The Miller girls had the whole town looking out for them! Did you always live in the same house on Main Street?
Jessi: We grew up there, I was raised there. My parents have lived there the whole time they’ve been together.

MP: And we know you spent a lot of time in the gym, growing up.
Jessi: I was a manager [for basketball and volleyball] from kindergarten until I could start playing, myself. I pretty much was raised in the gym and on the field. My aunt was a coach, my dad was a coach, my uncle was a coach, my cousin was a coach. So I was either being a manager or I was playing. I was in the gym until way afterhours, or even before school to way after school if we had double practices. Basketball was always my favorite; then softball. I did four sports for the most part, and then my senior year I did cross country as well – mostly to get out of practice! All the way through I did volleyball, softball, basketball, and track.

MP: After graduation, you went into nursing.
Jessi: Science has always been my forte, so I dual-enrolled in high school. I went to Mid-Michigan Community College, right into the nursing program. I’ve been a registered nurse now for five years, and I’ll graduate with my bachelor’s from Sienna Heights in five weeks.

MP: Awesome. Congratulations! What made you want to get into nursing?
Jessi: I have just always had that math and science (background), and I love being able to help people. Nursing is one of those professions that’s ever changing, and you’re always learning. You’re always helping, and educating people – one way or another, you’re always making a difference in someone’s life.

I don’t remember even when I chose this path – at some point it just happened. Kind of the joke is, that I chose it in pre-school – my mom has photos of me dressed up as a nurse when I was in pre-school. So I guess it’s my destiny!

MP: We heard you recently hit a deer?
Jessi: It was Halloween, and we got that first snowstorm. I was heading up to Grayling, dressed up as a Minion for my little kiddos at work. And a deer hit me! In my driver’s side door – she hit me; I didn’t hit it. So I called dispatch, and they’re like: ‘Just go to the police department.’ So once I got to Grayling, on my lunch break, I got to go the police department and file a police report, dressed as a Minion. So I was like, “Happy Halloween!”

The first time I’ve had to do a police report, or file a claim, and I was dressed as a Minion! Out of all days: I have yellow leggings on, bib overalls; I’ve got a light on my forehead!

MP: Now, that’s funny! Outside of work, what keeps you busy?
Jessi: My house, and baking cakes. I’ve been baking cakes since I was 13 or 14. My Grandma Malin did wedding cakes, and she’d done cakes for years. She taught me how to do a lot of stuff with buttercream; homemade buttercream, and stuff with old-school piping – stuff that people don’t really see. I’d kind of just toyed with it, and learned some new things over the years. I’ve inherited all of her cakepans, so I have over 70 cake pans, which may sound crazy! I’ve kind of done it on the side – it’s my escape. It’s a craft; it’s an art. It’s something totally different.

MP: So do you make cakes based on word-of-mouth, or how does that work?
Jessi: I just do them out of my house. I’ve done a handful of wedding cakes. I love doing your special occasion cakes, birthday cakes, your graduation cakes; just because cakes – those are my favorite to do and I enjoy it.

MP: Do you ever bake cakes for yourself just because?
Jessi: No, because that means I eat it! A lot of people ask me to do cakes, and they say, ‘Oh, just use your creativity.’ So that’s when I try new skills, and try new things to see what I can do, and expand what I can offer.

MP: And we know that hunting season keeps you busy, especially with the buck pole. Have you always been a hunter?
Jessi: My parents aren’t into hunting, but when I was younger – probably five or six – I liked fishing and all that stuff. So between my Uncle Lee, and Uncle Chuck, and Uncle Frank, they all took me under their wing. They’d take me fishing; ice fishing. Uncle Frank would take me out to the range and teach me how to shoot – he taught me how to hunt. All three of them would take me hunting. I shot my first buck during youth season with Uncle Chuck – and I’ve only shot one since then!

I’ll be going out Friday morning, and then I’ll be at the buck pole. Hopefully, I’ll break my streak and get one this year – it’s been six years since I’ve gotten one.

MP: What do you enjoy the most about being a part of the Marion community? What’s kept you here?
Jessi: I moved to Evart for a couple years, but for the most part I’ve been in this area. It’s just a small-town, tight-knit community, and I’ve never not seen myself as being part of this community. I waited tables at the Horseshoe; I’ve always worked here, always been here. I have friends and family that are here. I enjoy going down and watching little league games in the summer. It’s just kind of one of those things: My heart’s been here since I was little, and it’s not going anywhere. I plan on sticking around!

MP: What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
Jessi: Never give up. My mom got me this ring, and it’s engraved on the inside of this ring: Never give up. Life’s going to always throw things at you. You can always get through it. It doesn’t matter if you hit a deer, and you’re sick, and you’re running a buck pole, and going to school, and working 40 hours a week – you’ll still get through it, as long as you keep pushing. As long as you never give up on yourself. If that’s your goal, go for it. You do what it takes to get it done.

MP: Who have been your role models in life?
Jessi: Definitely, my parents; my grandparents. There’s just been so many [role models] over the years between family and the community. I’ve been raised in the community and there’s so many people who’ve had influences on me throughout the years. But definitely my parents. They’ve always pushed me, but I know it’s always been for the best for me. They’re always there for advice when needed. They’ve always pushed me to continue pursuing things that I’ve wanted, even when I’ve wanted to give up.

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