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One of A Kind – Connie Gerstner Miller

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242 – October, 2021

By Joan Harrigan

Over and over, the dog fancy mourns the loss of individuals who devoted their lives to the study, preservation, and improvement of purebred dogs. When Connie Gerstner Miller passed away on July 30, she had established a distinctive line of Golden Retrievers as well as a plan for the continuation of her breeding program. A line can be continued; too often, the knowledge gained during years as a breeder, handler, and judge isn’t passed to another generation. For Connie, mentoring others as she did throughout her career was her way to pass on all that she had learned.

Ask her family and friends to describe Connie, and they uniformly call her strong-willed, outspoken, independent, at times a bit intimidating, but also loyal, and generous. Jeff Pepper, who first met Connie at a specialty “lost in the mists of time,” remembers her as “a very warm and giving person, who was also someone who stood up for her rights as a breeder, woman, and human being.” She was someone he could call on to help him underwrite veterinary students’ attendance at the AKC CHF National Parent Club Conference when funding could not be found elsewhere. Melissa Davis-Tripp, DVM remembers her as “an amazing mentor—always willing to share. Just a super caring, wonderful person.”

Bruce Schultz was Connie’s friend “since forever;” his wife, Tara, says that Connie was instrumental in changing their lives. “She was bigger than life, and if a friend needed something, she’d give the shirt off her back.” Wayne Cavanaugh was a long-time friend of Connie and her husband, Fred Miller, when he joined them at the UKC. “She was a task master—driven and resourceful—she could get anything done,” Wayne remembers. “But business was a side job to her. She was a great breeder—fastidious and ruthless about structure. She never went off on a tangent with her breeding—it was all about structure and she stayed true to herself.”

No one knew her better than her daughter, Geri Gerstner Hart, who was raised by Connie as a single mother. Geri worked with her mother as a professional handler, breeder, and at the UKC. “When my mother spoke of Golden Retrievers, her favorite word was ‘balance,’” she says. “She was true to her breeding principles, and her Goldens today look like those from the ‘70s. She was admired for that.” Geri also says “she was the ONLY person I know who was still showing her own dogs at 75 years of age after replacement of BOTH knees, BOTH hips and one shoulder!”

From Farm to Hobby Kennel to a Family Business

Click here to read the complete article
242 – October, 2021

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