Five years ago, when Dr. Anthony Miltich came to Cornelius for a visit with his son Michael, he had no way of knowing the dramatic turn his life was about to take. Within a year, he would fall in love and marry a Lake Norman woman whom he met in church, then buy a home in Mooresville. Not bad, for a guy who just turned 100 on June 1.
Miltich was honored by 85 of his friends, family and colleagues during a cruise on Lake Norman May 31, and his son, also a doctor, says he’s never seen his dad more happy or content. “My father taught me what it means to be honorable, professional and self-sufficient,” he said, “so to see him enjoying life so much as he begins his second century is a genuine delight.”
Anthony Miltich’s path from the son of poor parents to respected doctor, topped off with romance at 95, is a remarkable, heartwarming story. He was born in Virginia, Minn., to parents whom had left Croatia after the turn of the 19th century. They had 10 children and had come to find the freedom and opportunity that was America. His father was an iron miner who worked 10 hours, six days a week; mom was a homemaker.
They had little money, so everyone in the family did what they could to help out. “When he was a child, my father would carry a lunch bucket to his father in the mine,” said Michael Miltich. “Later, he delivered newspapers, then eventually he joined a band playing the saxophone. That’s how he paid for college.”
Anthony Miltich, the first of his family to attend college, graduated from the University of Minnesota Medical School in 1939. He was accepted into a surgical training program at the Mayo Clinic, but when America entered World War II, he was assigned to Flint, Mich., to keep the auto workers healthy as they manufactured tanks and other vehicles for the war effort.
“Dad was a general practice/general surgeon, something that you’ll never find today. He would take care of your blood pressure, fix your hernia, and even take out your uterus if needed,” Michael said only half kidding. “He is also a wonderful observer of people. When I was in medical school, I made hospital rounds with him once. His accent and mannerisms changed as we went from one patient room to the next depending on the ethnicity of his patient.”
The elder Miltich is not happy at the disruption in the doctor-patient relationships that he sees occurring today. He feels physicians are not as close to their patients as they used to be.
Anthony Miltich spent 48 years practicing medicine fulltime up north. During that time he divorced his first wife, then married his office assistant. After he retired, they moved to Port Lucie, Fla. She died in 2009.
A year later, at age 95, he drove to Charlotte from Florida to celebrate Michael’s birthday. While attending St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Davidson, Martyne Sheline, who was 78 at the time and lived in Cornelius, was seated one row in front. He obtained her phone number via his son, and eventually they began to date.
“He brought her to our family reunion which was a celebration of his birthday, but he forbid anybody telling her his age. Then, he moved in with us in order to keep dating Martyne. She didn’t find out his age until we obtained the marriage license and I filled in the birth date,” Michael said.
They married six months later and now live in Mooresville, near the town’s municipal golf course. “After being away from all family for decades, it’s great for me to be able to spend time with my dad again every week.”
Anthony says he was “stricken” right away with Martyne, but that it took her longer to feel the same way about him. “I thought he would be a nice friend at first,” said Martyne, “but it turned out to be much more.”
There’s no hesitation on how he feels. “Martyne, my queen, she is a jewel and I’m the luckiest guy in the world,” he said to everyone as he cut his birthday cake.
Each month they celebrate the 27th as their special day. They are also regulars at the monthly big band concerts at George Pappas Victory Lanes, in Mooresville.
Dave Vieser is a freelance writer for Lake Norman News. Have a story idea for Dave? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.