Willis Miller, a teacher by training, took his first job in August 1940 with the Star-Observer, the weekly Hudson paper, where he wrote local news, sold advertisements, did the bookkeeping and billing, covered civic meetings, operated the mailer and subscription list and wrote a personal column, “Along Our Street,” which ran weekly for almost 40 years.
On $11 a week, he was not able to afford a car, so he rode his bike to work every day for 12 years. He supplemented his income as a stringer for the Milwaukee Sentinel, sang at funerals, and did singing telegrams for Western Union.
Willis became editor and general manager of the Star-Observer in 1952 after Yvette H. Ward purchased it. After six years of ownership Ward decided to sell the paper and Willis formed a corporation of local investors to purchase it. Willis became publisher, president and treasurer, positions he held for 30 years. In the early 1980s, Willis partially retired, continuing to write articles and the popular “Historic Hudson” column for the next 15 years.
Some of Willis’ significant contributions include founding the St. Croix Historical Society and developing the Hudson Area Biographical Index at the Star-Observer. This index is an archive of some 200,000 names and information about Hudsonites that attracts researchers, historians and genealogists throughout the area and the nation.
Willis has served on the Hudson Housing authority for 27 years, a member of the Hudson Commercial Club, Hudson Rotary Club, Hudson Lodge of Elks, St. Croix County Historical Society, and New Richmond Preservation Society.
At age 85, Willis continues to play an active role in the week-to-week publication of the Star-Observer. He is seen as a vital part of the office “family” and provides the entire staff with a thread of continuity to the past that is dearly valued.