‘Truly a visionary’: Sherm Miller, who founded the St. George Marathon, dies at age 77

Composite image. Background October 2017 file photo shows runners in the 41st annual St. George Marathon in St. George, Utah. Inset photo of Sherman Miller, widely known as the founder of the St. George Marathon, who died Jan. 20 at age 77 | Race photo by Dave Amodt. Miller photo courtesy of Spilsbury Mortuary, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Sherman Miller, widely known as the founder of the St. George Marathon, died Jan. 20 at age 77.

Funeral services for Miller are scheduled for Saturday in St. George, followed by burial at the Tonaquint Cemetery. A viewing is also scheduled for Friday evening.

Miller is credited with starting the St. George Marathon in 1977, one year after he finished running the Deseret News Marathon in Salt Lake City in 4 1/2 hours.

According to the historical account posted as a “Signature Moment” on the St. George Marathon’s official Facebook page, Miller was so enamored with his own marathon experience that he decided to bring a similar event to Southern Utah.

“Miller, who worked for the City of St. George parks and recreation department, so enjoyed his marathon experience and the festivities afterwards, decided that St. George, with its ideal fall weather, should host a race also,” the written account states.

Official race T-shirt from the first St. George Marathon in 1977. Date and location of photo not specified. | Photo courtesy of St. George Marathon via Facebook, St. George News

Over the next year, Miller, with the help of others, including former Dixie State track coach Bob Horlacher, worked to design, organize and promote the first-ever 26.2-mile race in St. George.

That inaugural St. George Marathon in the fall 1977 featured just 42 runners, 38 of whom successfully completed the race. By comparison, more than 4,000 runners finished the 42nd annual St. George Marathon in 2018.

Debbie Zockoll of St. George, the only athlete to have run in every St. George Marathon to date, posted the following memory as a tribute to Miller, underneath his obituary posting:

I will forever be thankful for Sherman Miller! Little did I know when I ran the first St. George Marathon that it would change and shape my life, and what a great life it was. He knew that he was onto something with the marathon and he was truly a visionary. I always think about him every October at the starting line and I remember that first starting line. Sending love and peace to his family. What a great man.

St. George Mayor Jon Pike also expressed his appreciation for Miller and his contributions to the St. George community.

“Sherm served as our first recreation director and was instrumental in helping us build and implement our early recreation programs, including establishing the St. George Marathon,” Pike said in a statement emailed to St. George News. “These programs laid the groundwork for helping St. George become one of the premier outdoor destinations in the Western United States. We are grateful for Sherm’s contributions to our city. On behalf of the City Council, our thoughts are with his family at this time.”

Miller is survived by his wife of 52 years, Lynnette Rene Boyce Miller, according to his obituary. Their family includes seven children, 23 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

A graduate of Utah State University with a degree in recreational management with a business minor, Miller is also credited with starting the St. George Art Festival, another popular event that, like the marathon, has helped attract visitors from all around the world.

Read more: Sherman Craven Miller obituary in St. George News

Funeral services

  • A viewing will be held for family and friends on Friday, Jan. 25, from 6-8 p.m., and Saturday, Jan. 26 from 9:30-10:30 a.m. at the Morningside LDS Stake Center on 881 South River Road, St. George, Utah.
  • The funeral will be held on Saturday, Jan. 26, at 11 a.m. at the same location.
  • Interment will be at Tonaquint Cemetery.

Email: jrichards@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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