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April 09. 2013 10:49PM

Brother's death shakes Bode Miller, family

EASTON - The death of professional snowboarder Chelone Miller, younger brother of Olympic gold medalist Bode Miller, has hit hard in the town he grew up in.

"We still live in a 'village,'" Starcy Branch, a friend of the family's said Tuesday, noting there is an outpouring of love for Joanne Kenney Miller and Woody Miller of Easton, parents of the 29-year-old who died Sunday of an apparent seizure.

Miller was hoping to make the U.S. squad for snowboardcross for the 2014 winter Olympic games in Sochi, Russia. He'd returned to the sport after recovering from a 2005 motorcycle accident that left him in a coma for 11 days. He came in fourth at the 2013 Sprint U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix. In March he won the Rahlves Banzai Tour overall title.

He was found in his van in the Mammoth Lakes area of California.

Miller grew up in Easton, as did his brother, and learned to ski as soon as he could walk. He discovered snowboarding when he was about 9, and immediately fell in love with it. He was sweet and loving and very close to his family, Branch said.

"He just liked people," she said. "It's very, very tragic. He really made an impact because he was so kind."

Branch called him, "a massively great snowboarder," who also excelled at other outdoor sports.

"We all know everyone," she said of the Easton-Sugar Hill-Franconia area. Everyone, she added, is uniting to help the family. "Their hearts are broken."

John DeVivo, general manager of Cannon Mountain, said Chelone moved out west before DeVivo came to Cannon six years ago.

"Everybody who knew him says he was a great kid, with a lot of spirit. Everyone seems to have a story or two from back in their youth," DeVivo said.

Bode Miller was at Cannon last weekend, raising money for the family's Turtle Ridge Foundation at BodeFest. His sister, Kyla Miller works at the foundation in Sugar Hill; another sister, Wren Miller Weed, is on the board of directors.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the family," DeVivo said.

"Chelone Miller was an aspiring elite athlete who had made great progress as a snowboardcross rider this past season. We are all deeply saddened at the news of his death and extend our condolences to the entire Miller family," said Bill Marolt, president and CEO of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association.

syoungknox@newstote.com

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