How is Woody Doing?

Story of the Day for Wednesday May 9, 2012

How is Woody Doing?

                     I’m content with weaknesses, insults, trouble, persecution, and difficulties, for the sake of Christ. For when I’m weak, then I’m strong.

                                                        2 Corinthians 12:10

Dan Miller was a sports nut. As a high school athlete in central Washington he starred on championship teams in basketball, football, and baseball. Several colleges offered him a sports scholarship. Dan dreamed of playing college sports and graduating as a P.E. instructor.

Five weeks after high school graduation, however, he contracted polio. He was completely paralyzed. After many months of therapy the permanent damage became evident. He lost 80 percent of the muscular control of his legs. His right arm hung limp by his side. He would have to relearn to write with his left hand. But even his left arm had limited mobility and only half its former strength.


Now what?

When Dan was able to hobble around with an elbow-high Canadian crutch, he applied and was accepted in 1956 at Eastern Washington College. His registration packet was labeled “P.E. Exempt” as he sat in front of his academic advisor, Dr. Richard Hagelin.

Dan told him, “I want to major in physical education and become a P.E. teacher.”


Dan got his B.A., and later his masters, in Physical Education.

But he when began teaching grade school children, he found the students would imitate him — trying to catch a ball, for instance, with one hand rather than two.

So, he bought a wooden 18-inch mannequin and named it “Woody.” Using the mannequin he would demonstrate proper technique. Dan’s wife, Judy, began making a wardrobe for Woody and the kids couldn’t wait to see his next costume.

Woody became larger than life. Parents wanted to see this Woody their kids kept talking about. Woody began writing Christmas letters to his students and to all incoming kindergartners. If there was any problem behavior, they didn’t get a lecture from Mr. Miller, they got a letter from Woody. By speeding up songs on a tape recorder, Woody had a chipmunk-like voice and started singing duets with Dan.

Woody became such a sensational education tool that educators from around the state visited his school to learn more of Dan’s innovative teaching technique.

Many years later, Dan’s daughter attended a ten-year high school reunion. All her classmates still wanted to know how Woody was doing.

In his later years, Dan would speak to churches and tell them, “Please don’t pray for me to be healed. It will ruin my . . . career!”


In his book, Living, Laughing and Loving Life (with Jeanne Zornes) he says, “I don’t always think of my handicap as a ‘gift,’ but now I see how it has changed my life for the better.”

                              (copyright by and by Marty Kaarre)