Hero Honored 68 Years After Deadly Fire

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LOWER TOWAMENSING TOWNSHIP -- A man who died trying to save two children from a fire in Carbon County was honored more than six decades after he lost his life.

That fire happened on Thanksgiving Day 1949, but in the village of Aquashicola, which is near Palmerton, it has never been forgotten, especially by the fire company.

The man who died trying to save two of his young neighbors got a special recognition on Saturday.

On Forest Inn Road in Aquashicola, the memory of Thanksgiving 1949 still brings people to tears.

"I often think about what would I do in a situation like that. That guy is to be commended. He gave his life," said Robert Hartman of Aquashicola.

That was the day a fire killed two young children, 4-year-old Alfred and 2-year-old Shirley Arner, and the neighbor who tried to save them, Buddy Miller.

Miller ran across the road into the burning house and upstairs where the two small children were trapped. He tried to kick out the window, but the floor collapsed.

Sandy Arner was just 8 years old when she saw her siblings die.

"They found him after it all collapsed in the basement, and he still had them in his arms," she recalled.

The tragedy made headlines. The victims were buried. Buddy Miller was awarded the Carnegie Medal for Heroism.

His son Barry was only a baby. He explains his mother rarely spoke of his father's death.

"I didn't know about it until I was 11 years old, that it even happened. I never spoke with mom about it because it tore her apart," said Barry Miller.

But on this day, that selfless act is the talk of Carbon County. A parade of firetrucks carried both families to the cemetery where the Arner children and Buddy Miller are buried. The fire company arranged for a replica of the Carnegie Medal to be added to his gravestone.

For Barry and his sister Elaine, getting reacquainted with the people of Aquashicola has been life changing, connecting them to the father and hero they lost so long ago.

This event came about because a former fire company member noticed that Buddy Miller's grave stone had no mention of his sacrifice. It took some detective work and the help of the Palmerton Area Historical Society to find his children so they could give permission for the medallion to be added.

Everyone involved says the effort was worth it.


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