Yvonne Liu

Under the Big Top

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Betsy and Chuck Miller. Photo by David Fairchild

Chuck and Betsy Miller of Aztec Tents, have it covered—events, milestones and PLCM’s Sellabration

Tents. The very thought of tents doesn’t usually bring a smile to people’s faces. But for Chuck and Betsy Miller, tents occupy a special place in their lives, both professionally and personally. Chuck is president and owner of Aztec Tents and his tents are prominent at South Bay charity events. They can also be seen at Super Bowl games, Grand Prix races, PGA golf tournaments and Hollywood award shows. A specially designed clear tent covered daughter Tory’s wedding in 2005 at the Portuguese Bend Club.

Chuck Miller joined Aztec Tents and Events in 1981 and under his leadership, the company has become one of the premier companies in the industry. On the Peninsula, the Millers have been community leaders in education, philanthropy and healthcare, including Providence Little Company of Mary.

Chuck has served on the Providence LCM Community Ministry Board for 11 years and the Providence LCM Foundation Board for 12 years, four years as chairman. Betsy has been a Foundation trustee since 2007 and is co-chairing Sellabration, a gala to be held on November 3, to benefit Providence outreach programs and medical center services.

Joe Zanetta, president of Providence LCM Foundation said, “Chuck and Betsy have been among our most dedicated and active volunteers and leaders for years. They are devoted, generous in their philanthropy and always cast the spotlight on others. They serve as ambassadors, think of others, have a great sense of style and humor, and are among the first to provide private support.”

When one spends time with the Millers, it is easy to see that they enjoy a true partnership. They finish each other’s sentences and are best friends. They are also supportive of each other’s various volunteer commitments.

Chuck grew up on a farm in a small town in northern Ohio and Betsy is originally from Buffalo, New York. They met on a blind date at Bowling Green State University in Ohio and soon became sweethearts. In 1968, they moved to Redondo Beach and later settled on the Peninsula in 1971. Both taught in the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District. Chuck eventually became principal of Rancho Vista Elementary at the age of 29, and Betsy moved on to residential real estate. Although Chuck loved working in education, he was invited to join Aztec Tents and Events. After being asked multiple times, Chuck decided to say yes, thinking he was young and could always return to education. Though he never formally returned to education, Chuck was a Peninsula Education Foundation trustee for nine years and president for three years. The Millers have helped fund the annual Chuck Miller Grants, which award teachers who provide unique learning experiences to students. In 1982, they started and chaired the first Main Event. This successful tented affair was held in the Peninsula Center parking lot near what is now Pavilions.

In the summer of 1987, the Millers faced one of their biggest challenges when Aztec burned to the ground. They could see the fire blazing as they drove from their home on the Hill down to Torrance.

However, beauty can arise from ashes.

Explained Chuck, “The beauty of what occurred was seeing people from other companies in our industry call and ask, ‘What can we do to help?'”

Thinking to himself, “We’re either going to fold or go with it,” Chuck decided to press on. Soon he was ordering inventory from a pay phone. After all, a client’s wedding was in a few days.

“We started again with nothing and became one of the largest tent and event companies,” said Chuck. “I’m pretty good at leading and motivating. I’m a big believer in luck, which is made up of two things–preparation and opportunity. My point of view is that to be a good leader you need to have a great work ethic, be ethical, be enthusiastic,” continued Chuck.

In 2005, Chuck sold the rental division of the company, retaining and growing the tent manufacturing business, renamed Aztec Tents.

Throughout the years, the other half of the Miller duo, Betsy, has been a volunteer extraordinaire. A member of the National Charity League for over ten years, she served as its president. In addition, she was president of Peninsula Committee Children’s Hospital, chaired their national Portuguese Bend Horse Show and co-chaired their golf tournament twice.

Describing reasons Betsy has been successful in the volunteer realm, Chuck said, “She smiles, knows how to pick great people who do a great job. People want to be around her. Betsy is enthusiastic, passionate and positive. Nothing gets in her way.”

“It’s good to let volunteers have fun and to empower them to make decisions,” said Betsy. “There are so many ways to do a job or event and you need to let others do it their way. It’s fun to watch people have their own energy and use their own ideas.”

“We love to cheer people on,” added Chuck.

The relationship between the Millers and Providence Little Company of Mary started when Aztec provided tents, tables, chairs, linens for PLCM events.

Said Betsy, “We would observe the Little Company of Mary sisters, their enthusiasm and thought, this is really a special place. Their mission just stuck with us. The leadership, nursing staff, physicians—all are working with the same goals and mission.”

Betsy, along with fellow Foundation Trustee Paula Del Vicario, is co-chairing the Sellabration gala, on November 3, at the Marina del Rey Ritz Carlton. That evening, Drs. Glen Komatsu and Phyllis Monroe will be honored with the Spirit of Healing award.

Reflecting on their lives, Betsy said, “Family has always been the focus of our lives.” Their daughters live in Valmonte, and the Millers love spending time with their two young grandchildren nearly every day. Chuck and Betsy play golf regularly, usually separately with their own golf buddies, but occasionally together. Years ago, Betsy’s father taught Chuck to play golf. The Millers hope to pass on their love of the game to their grandchildren.

On Saturday, October 27, Chuck, Betsy, family and friends will gather on a sweeping La Quinta golf course, under a translucent white tent, to witness daughter Molly’s wedding ceremony. Chuck and Betsy will be smiling broadly. Once again, everyone is covered.

For further information on the Providence Little Company of Mary Foundation Sellabration Gala, Saturday November 3 presented By Honda at the Marina del Rey Ritz Carlton call 310-303-5346. PEN

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