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Boone Icon, “Cheap Joe” Miller Remembered by Those Who Knew Him Best

Joe Miller will long be remembered for his lifetime of service to Boone and surrounding areas. Photo courtesy of Cheap Joe’s Art Stuff

Submitted by Sherrie Norris 

On Thursday, Sept. 7, news began circulating around the High Country that yet another local icon had died. It was confirmed by those who knew him best that, yes, Joe Miller had passed away, following several months of declining health.

The following message was released to the public, and in particular to Friends of Cheap Joes, by the office of Cheap Joe’s Art Stuff,  to confirm the sad news. It is with sympathy and fond memories that we at High Country Press share these words:

“Our hearts are heavy as we share the passing of our fearless leader and founder, Joe “Cheap Joe” Miller. 

Some of you have known Joe for many years and share the shock and sadness we are enduring. Joe lived his life demonstrating immense courage, gentleness, and a beloved spirit which we are all so lucky to have known him for. 

Born on February 17th, 1939, Joe’s life was always connected in some ways to the arts. While he initially set forth to become a taxidermist with dreams of becoming a museum conservator, he eventually settled in at UNC Chapel Hill’s School of Pharmacy. It was in practice at Boone Drug and while moonlighting as an artist that he began a small, corner “shop” he jokingly named “Cheap Joe’s Art Stuff.” The name stuck, and Joe later left his pharmacy career to grow Cheap Joe’s into a force in the art materials world. 

Joe built a solid foundation at Cheap Joe’s – one rooted in personal, friendly, often humorous interactions. It was how he approached his customers (often personally delivering packages when traveling across the U.S.). It is with honor and great respect that we carry forward his tremendous legacy.

Joe’s passion and dedication to the art world earned him numerous accolades and awards – his highest honors being the recipient of the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award, American Watercolor Society Dolphin Medal, North Carolina Order of the Long Leaf Pine, and NWS Arts and Humanities Award for his contributions to his extremely broad community.

It is the at the request of Joe and his family that in lieu of flowers contributions may be made to Brushes for Vincent – a charitable organization designed by Joe to give persons in distress healing through art. Donations may be made at: www.cheapjoes.com/donate-to-brushes-for-vincent.html

A gifted artist with many other talents and skills, Joe Miller left his mark on countless lives throughout his lifetime. Photo courtesy of Cheap Joe’s Art Stuff

The obituary of Joe Miller, provided by Hampton Funeral And Cremation Service of Boone: 

Mr. Joseph Claude (Joe) (Joe Pops) (Cheap Joe) Miller won his victory over life on September 6, 2023.

Joe was born in a car in front of Boone Drug Company, in downtown Boone, NC, February 17, 1939, to Flossie and Cecil Miller. According to his mother, Joe was born in a hurry and never slowed down. He lived his life with enthusiasm, always looking for the next adventure and never being satisfied with being in one place very long.

After graduation from the University of North Carolina with a degree in Pharmacy, Joe returned to Boone to practice his profession at Boone Drug Company. After several years, he became a partner in Boone Drug, a position he held for many years.

Joe’s life was always filled with creativity. He attended the University of Iowa with the intention of becoming a taxidermist. He practiced as a taxidermist while working as a pharmacist for many years. Later he formed a company called The House of Joseph, that made and sold carved mushrooms, figurines and other crafts. In the early 1980’s Joe was gifted a series of art lessons in watercolor with Noyes Long. That experience ignited a lifelong passion for art, especially watercolor.

As an avid artist and entrepreneur, Joe decided to begin selling a few art supplies at Boone Drug. He jokingly put up a sign over the art supply section that said, “Cheap Joe’s Art Stuff”. The name stuck and he later left his career in pharmacy to grow Cheap Joe’s into a force in the art materials world.

Joe’s passion and dedication to the art world and humanity earned him numerous accolades and awards. His highest honors include being the recipient of the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award, American Watercolor Society Dolphin Medal, North Carolina Order of the Longleaf Pine and the National Watercolor Society Arts and Humanities Award.

Joe’s biggest pride was his family and friends. He was “Joe Pops” to his grandchildren and great grandchildren, whom he loved and cherished. He truly relished every minute he could spend with them. He and wife Lynda married in 1998. They enjoyed traveling together both alone and with friends. He truly enjoyed their time together and would talk at length about the adventures they took. Fishing and hunting with his sons were another of his great joys. They went on a fishing trip almost every year visiting places from the mountains of North Carolina to the wilds of Canada. Each trip resulted in paintings and sometimes a gift of a handmade and hand painted journal to remember the trip.

In addition to his parents, Joe is preceded in death by his son, David Tuckwiller Miller, an infant daughter, brothers, Fred and Bill Miller, sister-in-law, Susie Miller, and sister Kate Miller.

Left to cherish the memories of him are his wife, Lynda Critcher Miller, son, Joseph Miller and wife, Deborah, stepsons Jeffrey Keller and wife, Rachel, and Bart Keller and wife, Theresa. Grandchildren that he adored are Meghann M Williams and husband, Terreyl, Ashley M Sutton and husband, Michael, Emma Miller, Haden Miller, Bailey Keller, Macie Keller, Abby Keller, Wyatt Keller and Cade Keller; and great grandchildren Josi Sutton, Phoebe Williams, Maeson Sutton and Bryson Williams. Also surviving are his father and mother-in-law, Dwight and Virginia Critcher; brothers and sisters in law, Donna Miller, Roger and Denise Critcher, and Ricky and Jamie Critcher. Nieces and nephews also survive.

There will be no family visitation, but Joe will lie in repose at Hampton Funeral Home Chapel in Boone Friday, September 8th from 1-5 pm and Saturday September 9th from 9-5 pm so friends may pay their respect and sign the guest registry. 

The funeral for Joe will be private.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Brushes for Vincent, a program established by Joe to provide art materials for children in hospitals, c/o Cheap Joe’s Art Stuff, 374 Industrial Park Drive, Boone NC 28607

The family respectfully requests no food.

Online condolences may be sent to the family at www.hamptonfuneralnc.com

Hampton Funeral and Cremation Service is in charge of the arrangements.