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Why a Miller can in demolition debris brought Kari Suhadolnik to tears

A crushed Miller beer can buried deep in rubble from a school demolition brought home bittersweet memories of her dad for Stow resident Kari Suhadolnik.

The can was found by her longtime friend, Carrie Schaefer, who saw it among piles of bricks and debris at Bolich Middle School in Cuyahoga Falls – and knew immediately why it was there.

Suhadolnik’s late father, Lee Miller, had been a mason and bricklayer all his working life and had helped construct the field house at Bolich’s Laybourne Field in 1997.

Schaefer saw the can as the field and its buildings were recently being demolished to make way for a complete rebuild of the city’s high school.

“My dad thought it was clever to take a Miller beer can and hide it in every job he did,” said Suhadolnik, 46. “Whether hidden in a concrete block in a basement or inside a wall, he would say that someday, someone would find one."

Lee Miller passed away unexpectedly at age 70 in 2011, leaving a hole in his daughter’s life.

“We were preparing for a family picnic on July 4,” she said. “I was making ribs, he was making a blueberry pie, and my mom was bringing potato salad. He was supposed to come over, but instead I got the call he had died.”

Every year since, Suhadolnik – who recently was appointed to the Stow-Munroe Falls school board – marks July 4 with her own tradition by having the picnic they never got to eat together and posts it on her Facebook page to share with friends and family.

“So, every July 4, I have a Miller beer and have the picnic and think of my dad,” she said. “Over the years, so many people have commented that I have my Miller. Every year on his passing, I talk about it on my Facebook page. It is my way of remembering my dad, and talking about it helps.”

Suhadolnik admits she is not even very fond of the beer and is not sure her dad was either – but he couldn't pass up a good joke.

“It was his thing because it was a Miller,” she said.

When her friend Carrie found the can and called her, Suhadolnik said: “I started crying immediately. It touched me she would even remember. It is very important and emotional to me, but that someone else would make that connection and reach out is very special.

“My first thought is that it has to be his, how could it be anyone else? I have been thinking about my dad a lot recently. I have been back in the Falls campaigning and canvassing on my parents’ old street, so they have been on my mind.”

Suhadolnik’s mom, Elaine, passed away just a few months after her dad.

“Especially right now, there have been so many changes in my life; I wish they were here for some of it,” she said, “so to me, the Miller can felt like a message.”

She is now proudly in possession of the brick and mortar containing the Miller can, rescued by her friend before it could be hauled off in the construction rubble.

“I am not sure what I am going to do with it yet,” she said. “With my dad being a bricklayer, it is important to me. That is who he was, a blue-collar working man, and I have nothing but respect for him.

“To me, imagine if someone else other than Carrie had seen the can? It would just be garbage. It had to be someone who knew me and my story. For her to have taken the time and effort to reach out is very special. Talking about it obviously made a connection to someone.”