HUNTSVILLE, Alabama — Eight-six years ago, on June 11, 1926, I.B. “Buddy” Miller was the first baby born at Huntsville Hospital.
So when Miller recently heard news reports about the birth of Paige Harper McLemore, the first baby born at the new Madison Hospital on June 6, he felt moved to write her a letter.
The letter said, in part, “You are at the beginning of what I hope will be a long life full of health, happiness, contentment and success. I pray that you always enjoy the love of your parents and family, that you are esteemed by many friends and your community, and that you always return that love and esteem.
“Congratulations to your parents and to you, and ‘May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious unto you. May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.’ ”
Buddy Miller was the first baby born at Huntsville Hospital in 1926. (Submitte photo)
While those words mean nothing now to little Paige, they meant the world to her parents.
“It made me cry,” said Erin McLemore, Paige’s mom, who lost a 6-month-old baby girl born at Huntsville Hospital Oct. 31, 2009, to liver disease. “It is something special she will look back on when she is older. The way the letter was worded was like it was giving us a fresh start. It was a very bittersweet day for us.
“It didn’t really hit me at first what it would mean, but when everything settled down the next day, I thought, ‘This is pretty cool.’ ”
Paige weighed 8 pounds, 4 ounces and was 20 inches in length at birth. When she went for her checkup this week, her mom said she weighed 8 pounds, 20 ounces and was 21 1/4 inches long.
“She’s really growing,” said Erin. “Now if she will just get her days and nights straightened out.”
Madison Hospital President Mary Lynne Wright appreciated Miller taking time to send the letter to the hospital, which was forwarded to Paige’s parents, Erin and Josh McLemore of Athens.
“We are all touched by the kindness Mr. Miller showed in reaching out to little Paige Harper and her parents,” Wright wrote in an email. “The staff in Labor & Delivery were honored to be involved in the birth of the first baby born at Madison Hospital, and Mr. Miller just made it even more special for us.”
Wright said the fact their birthdays are just five days apart was “significant for us. This is one story that will definitely go in our time capsule!”
The fact Miller was the first baby born at Huntsville Hospital is not his only claim to fame. In 1992, at age 65, he became the oldest member ever of Temple B’nai Shalom in Huntsville to have a bar mitzvah.
Miller was the owner of L. Miller & Son Scrap Metal and Recycling, founded by his father, Louis, in 1918.
Miller said he would love to meet Paige since they share a common bond. After hearing about her birth, he said he “had a lot of time to think about it” and wanted to do something special for her.
“It’s always been something I could talk about wherever I went,” said Miller of his notoriety. “Huntsville Hospital gave me a silver cup with my name and birthdate engraved on it, but over the years I lost it. They gave me another one on their 65th anniversary when they heard I had lost mine and I really appreciated it.”
Miller said “it would be nice” if Madison Hospital did the same for its first baby.