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From mentor to friend, Martha Miller leaves her mark on Yosemite National Park

It’s about 10 a.m., and the breakfast crowd has cleared from the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge dining room – an eatery for guests of the tent cabins in Yosemite National Park’s High Sierra region.

Karin Prichard, a manager onsite for the park’s concessioner, Delaware North, takes a quick break before it’s time to get ready for the lunch rush. Sitting on a bench near a fire pit, she shrugs her shoulders and smirks when asked the whereabouts of Martha Miller – a multifaceted associate at the park for the better part of 60 years.

"Martha is hands-down my hero," Prichard says.

About 10 minutes pass, and there’s no sign of Miller, who at one point served as Prichard’s manager and marthamillerkarinprichard-7802704today handles a variety of duties, including shipping and receiving. Her titles include special events coordinator at The Ahwahnee and a coordinator consultant at Tuolumne Meadows.

"It’s interesting because when I started working for her, she was no-nonsense – pretty much a dictator," Prichard says with a chuckle. "You followed Martha’s rules, and you knew Martha’s rules. And so it’s interesting going from that – the, ‘Oh my God; I’m afraid of Martha’ – to her being an amazing friend who teaches me something every day in a very kind way. It’s definitely interesting, going from that employee-boss relationship to where we are today."

As Prichard finishes her thought, Miller walks toward the bench – a warm smile across her face, a hot cup of coffee in-hand.

"Sorry," she says. "I would have been here sooner, but I ran into a couple of guests who I haven’t seen in years. It was so nice to catch up with them."

Of course, running into a familiar guest or two is commonplace for Miller, who began her Yosemite journey as a teenager – initially as a ski instructor at the Badger Pass Ski Area. Her career in the park has included a myriad of roles, including general manager of the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge and coordinating holiday events at The Ahwahnee, Yosemite’s AAA Four-Diamond-rated hotel.

Miller takes a seat next to Prichard and pats her on the back.

"Karen and I have worked together for a number of years," Miller recalls. "I was thinking about this the other day. You know one of the things I remember about her from the beginning? She came to me and said, ‘I hear you like Miller Lite beer,’ and she brought me a six-pack."

Prichard smiles and shakes her head.

"At this point in time, I feel like Karin is mentoring me," Miller continues.

"Martha still runs this place," Prichard interrupts.

Earlier in the morning, Prichard praised Miller’s honesty.

"I think honesty is a big thing," Prichard said of Miller’s approach. "She really understands people and tries to reach out to them in a real way. I’ve listened to her, and she says what she needs to say. But she’s always honest, and I think that’s a big deal."

If honesty is the name of the game for Miller, the park has a rising star in Prichard.

"I am very proud to have been affiliated with Karin all these years, and hopefully I have mentored her a little bit," Miller says. "But I am quite serious about the fact that she’s mentoring me now. I know I made plenty of mistakes over the years, and I haven’t seen her make one yet."

With as much experience as Miller has, she’s certainly seen her fair share through the years, including the varying philosophies from the park’s concessioners. She has high praise for Delaware North and in particular, its environmental management system, GreenPath®.

"I’ve seen a lot," she says. "I’ve seen the changes with the different companies. I think the GreenPath program and the environmental issues that Delaware North has tackled are terrific. I’m not so sure that the rest of the world is aware what they have done – and that’s a pity.

"I feel very blessed that I’ve been here working for Delaware North; it’s been good for me, and hopefully it’s been good for them."

From the sounds of it, it’s been good for everyone.

PHOTO CAPTION: Karin Prichard (left) and Martha Miller are all smiles at Tuolumne Meadows Lodge in Yosemite National Park.