When Gail Miller and her late husband, Larry, were spinning in the busy blender of parenthood and managing their businesses, they could have easily afforded a weekly trip to a dry cleaner.
Or to buy one.
Instead, Utah Jazz owner, billionaire, and philanthropist Gail Miller woke up each day and ironed a fresh shirt for Larry. She shared the memory and lesson during one of our many interviews for her book, Courage to Be You.
“It was an important part of my routine. I’d get up every morning and iron his shirt. It seemed I could never get ahead of the laundry, so I just developed the habit of doing one for him every day.”
When Gail was done with the quick chore, she would lay out the shirt and use the time while he was getting ready to chat and catch up.
“Then I’d walk him to the door and kiss him good,” Gail added with a graceful laugh. “I wanted him to know I was going to be right there when he came home. And that our home was a good place to be.”
Gail said that Larry, who died in 2009, appreciated the gesture and her desire to be attentive to such a simple need. “It was my way of making sure Larry had that touch point with me each morning.”
I asked Gail if she recognized how unusual it might be for a couple of their massive wealth and hectic schedules to not take the easier path of simply sending the laundry out. “You know, you could have had his shirts professionally laundered and still met him at the front door for the kiss.”
Her response was kind, but resolute. She explained that both saving and service were cornerstones of their marriage and how they raised their five hardworking children.
Even when they purchased the NBA’s Utah Jazz, or successfully launched their chain of Megaplex movie theatres, or went from one dealership to more than sixty, the Millers did not spend money foolishly. Whether it was ironing a shirt, fixing a broken window, or giving Larry his haircuts at home rather than sending him to a barber or salon, they relished their roles as problem solvers.
Gail constantly told her children, “Yes, we have money.” But when they’d ask for something excessive or unnecessary, she would answer with a familiar line, “But we don’t have money for that.”
Still, it wasn’t just about the family budget. “I did this to create a sense of community within the family,” Gail said. ”The kids watched me and learned that we all have to share the load at home.”
Gail believes the simple act of service also strengthened her marriage. “It was one way to show I cared for him. He looked forward to it.”
Nearly a decade after Larry’s death, the life lesson lives on. Gail has since married renowned attorney Kim Wilson and she continues to look for small ways to save, to serve, and to find touch points every day with the people she loves.
“Family isn’t just important, it’s everything. And your marriage is your greatest investment.”
Well, that and a really nice iron.