Honoring Uncle Willie: Help Run, Wifey, Run Raise $ For Cancer Research—And More Birthdays

I don’t know the particulars of how they met—just that it happened sometime when my Daddy was five and his big brother was seven and Uncle Willie’s mom sent him to live with their neighbors, The Millners. Daddy, his brother Berkley and Uncle Willie, affectionately known as “Red” because he was light-skinned, became fast friends. Never stopped being friends—no matter the distance that separated them.

By the time I got to know Uncle Willie, he was well into his 50s—handsome as could be. A charmer. He’d traveled the world as a Merchant Marine and later, after settling in Florida, spent a great deal of time traveling and golfing. When he, my Daddy and Uncle Berk weren’t on an airplane or driving Uncle Willie’s red Cadillac to some distant state, you could find the tree of them on the bar stools and sofas and porches of old friends back in their hometown, where the three of them grew up and got old—together.

God, I loved my Uncle Willie. He had an amazing smile and a penchant for calling me “dahlin’,” and “sweetheart.” He opened car doors and pulled out chairs and held my hand when we walked together and told divine stories about my Daddy and Uncle Berk and him—how those Millner Boys used to run their little town in Virginia and how strong was their bond. I adored him for all of these things, but mostly because my father loved Uncle Willie and Uncle Willie loved him back. They did not share the same blood, my Daddy, my Uncle Berk and my Uncle Willie. But they were brothers nonetheless.

I can still feel my father’s shoulder against mine, shaking with immeasurable grief as we sat in the pews of the church where we said our goodbyes to Uncle Willie. He died a few years back after a long, painful battle with prostate cancer. It tore us to pieces knowing how much he hurt. Tore us to pieces, too, knowing that it would eventually take him away from here.

Though he had plenty of them, I wish Uncle Willie could have had more birthdays.

I can’t bring him back, but today I honor him by dropping a little something into the marathon account of my blog homie and MyBrownBaby contributor Lorraine Robertson of Run, Wifey, Run. On Sunday, October 9, 2011, she’ll run the Chicago Marathon as a member of the DetermiNation team raising money for the American Cancer Society. This will be her second marathon, but her first run for such an important cause.

Dedicate a mile in honor of someone you love. The first 25 people to donate $25 or more will have one mile run in honor of their loved-one. Lorraine will run her first mile in honor of her late father-in-law, Leon “Bullet” Robertson, a marathon runner who beat prostate cancer. She’ll share all the names and their miles on her blog, www.RunWifeyRun.com. Please know that your gift does not need to be $25 – every dollar helps, so please give what you can.

More than half a million people die annually from cancer, the second leading cause of death in the United States. More than 1.5 million new cases continue to occur, making the numbers staggering.

For more information or to make a donation, visit Lorraine’s personal donation page here.

Both she and I appreciate your consideration and especially your generosity.

Because everyone deserves more birthdays.

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.


  1. Thank you, Denene, for such a beautiful post, for sharing Uncle Willie’s legacy with us, and for your support! I will proudly run in his honor.

    Hugs & Smiles,

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