A history lesson that changed his life

Inspired by his grade-school principal, Randy Miller went from a kid who didn’t like history to an authority on Wisconsin’s past who helped start the Crossroads Rendezvous

HOLDING A HIDE stretcher and powder horn like those used by fur traders hundreds of years ago, Randy Miller posed with former Saukville Elementary School principal Irvin Luisier, the man who Miller credits with inspiring his love of history. Photo by Sam Arendt
Ozaukee Press staff

After almost 60 years, local historian Randy Miller still looks up to the man who led him to his path in life by teaching children the rich stories that make up Wisconsin’s history.

“When I was an eighth-grader, I didn’t like history and never thought I would go to high school,” Miller, 70, said.

He credits former Saukville Elementary School Principal Irvin Luisier, 89, for changing his mindset. 

“Randy grew up during a bad time in public school history because it was the Sputnik-era,” Luisier said, noting the public education curriculum at the time emphasized math and science instead of the humanities because of the Cold War.

The critical moment in Miller’s education came at the end of eighth grade during a field trip led by Luisier to the Milwaukee Public Museum, which had an exhibit on early Wisconsin history. 

Miller was taken aback when the tour guide informed him that he was a descendent of the “Father of Wisconsin,” Charles de Langlade, who was a fur trader along the Great Lakes. Luisier said he let the tour guide in on the secret after he learned about Miller’s ancestry from his mother.

“For once I felt special because I was related to the Father of Wisconsin,” Miller said. “That was the turning point in my life, and because of that he will always be ‘Mr. Luisier’ to me.” 

Miller went on to organize the Saukville Historical Society in 1988 and the Crossroads Rendezvous in Saukville from 1991 to 2004 with his late wife Linda. 

The Rendezvous, a historical re-enactment focused on the fur trade era in Wisconsin, is being revived this year from May 18 to 20 in Peninsula Park.

He said his main goal is preserving Wisconsin history, and today he does that by educating grade-school students about music and immigration history in a pre-1840s setting outside of school.

“I guess I did a pretty good job with Randy,” Luisier said. “Before we went on the field trip, I thought he would only appreciate the long bus ride to Milwaukee.”

The last time the two met was at the funeral for Miller’s mother about seven years ago, but they remained in touch and Miller wants to publish a book about Wisconsin history from the lessons Luisier taught him.

“I’ve been writing all of his stories down over the years and it’s on my bucket list to get them published,” Miller said.

One of Luisier’s topics that Miller wants to write about involves the living history of Saukville. 

“When I moved to Saukville in 1953 there were only 600 people living here and Saukville Elementary wasn’t part of the Port Washington-Saukville School District,” Luisier said. “There was no industry or business in the community, but then they put up the highway and that all changed.” 

According to Luisier, he sees a progressive future for Saukville because its local government takes into account the impact it has on younger generations.

For Miller, that lesson resonates with his path in life.

“I guess you can be influenced by a lot of things when you’re a kid,” he said. “I was really lucky to have Mr. Luisier in my life and I’m proud to call him my friend.”



Click Here to Send a Letter to the Editor

Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


User login