During Christmas time, Jim Miller’s home on the corner of Stearns Street and Gondar Avenue shines brightly. The house, decorated with thousands of blinking lights, adorned with red ribbons, a nativity scene, and more, can—no doubt—be seen from the host of heavenly angels above. And it’s certainly a house that you can’t miss if you’re driving by on Stearns Street this holiday season.
Jim Miller’s decorations have been a shining testament to the Christmas spirit in Long Beach for years, particularly because of the hopeful message seen hanging from his garage door during the holidays.
When Joan Miller, Jim’s wife, was declared cancer-free after five years, the Millers decided to start a tradition around the holidays to put up a long white banner proclaiming “Praise the Lord, Cancer Free.” Each Christmas that Joan celebrated another cancer-free year, the number on the sign would change. Last year, it read, “22 years cancer free, Praise the Lord!”
However, last December, Joan Miller’s battle with cancer returned. After 22 years of being cancer-free, Joan was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
“We were debating on whether we should put the sign up last year,” Jim Miller said. “But Joan said that she spent 11 months of 2017 cancer free, so we decided to put it up.”
This year, the banner will read, “23 Years Praising the Lord! My New Home, Heaven.” Sadly, Joan Miller lost her battle with cancer on Oct. 6.
After undergoing an 11-hour surgery last April, being hospitalized for two months, and going through chemotherapy, Joan was eventually placed on hospice and spent her final days at home with Jim.
“We talked about what we should do about putting up the sign come Christmas time,” Jim Miller said.
It was at Joan’s request that Jim put the sign up whatever the circumstances. When Joan passed away in October, Jim returned to the same sign maker who made the Miller’s banner every year since that first “cancer-free” proclamation.
“Every year, the ‘sign man’ would change the number for free,” Jim Miller said.
After years of changing the “cancer free” number at no charge, Jim asked the sign man, “Is there anything I can do for you?”
“Keep bringing the sign back,” replied the sign maker.
When Jim returned to the store to have the sign remade after Joan’s passing, Jim asked, “How much do I owe you?”
“It’s my gift to you and your family,” replied the maker of the banner.
On more than one occasion, people battling cancer themselves or going through cancer with a loved one have stopped by Jim and Joan’s brightly-lit house to share their story during Christmas.
“Jim will call into the house, ‘Joan, you’ve got to come out, we have somebody that needs to be prayed for.’ And we pray for a lot of people on the sidewalk and we just want people to know what God does,” Joan Miller said back in 2017.
The Millers started another tradition along with the cancer-free banner. Each year, on the two nights before Christmas Eve, Jim Miller dresses up as the neighborhood Santa Claus. He sits outside his house while waving to motorists driving by on Stearns Street and hands out candy canes to neighborh