Rudy Miles

by Walter Fox

Rudy Miles, 78, of Chestnut Hill, a retired physical education teacher and a former All-City athlete in football and basketball, died of cancer Dec. 19 at Holy Redeemer Hospice in Meadowbrook.

Mr. Miles retired in 1988 after more than three decades as a physical education teacher to students with learning disabilities and behavior challenges in the Philadelphia public schools. He also coached these students in track, volleyball and gymnastics, producing several championship teams. For his work he received a distinguished service award from the school district.

After graduation from Central State University in Ohio in 1956, Mr. Miles, who played on All-City teams in 1949 and 1950 at Dobbins Technical School, was recruited by the San Francisco Giants to play on a minor league team in New Mexico, but turned down the offer when he realized it would require relocation and delay his impending marriage.

When Mr. Miles and his family moved to Chestnut Hill in 1935, they were one of only a few black families living in the community. Reflecting on this time in an interview with the Chestnut Hill Local several years ago, he recalled that his family was “embraced by the Italians and the Irish in the neighborhood.” His mother, Bessie Miles, worked in the bakery at the Chestnut Hill Community Center.

Mr. Miles attended J.S. Jenks Elementary School and played football, baseball and basketball at the Water Tower Recreation Center, where Mike Giantisco, then the center’s supervisor, became his mentor and teacher.

Giantisco, according to Mr. Miles, was responsible for getting him on the Henry Houston American Legion Post baseball team. Even though the team was ambivalent about having a black player, Mr. Miles became captain of the team.

During his teaching career, he played baseball for semi-pro teams, eventually becoming player/manager for a Penn-Del League team, but gave up baseball when his daughters were born. He continued to mentor many young athletes through the years.

Mr. Miles shared his experience of growing up black in a community that was rich in other cultures through oral history, photographs and documents with the Chestnut Hill Historical Society.

Mr. Miles also had been a member of the Boy Scout Troop at St. Barnabas’ Church in Germantown and had achieved the rank of Life Scout.

He is survived by three daughters, Vicki Miles, Cindy Parris and Kim Boddy; four grandchildren, and his former wife, Sylvia W. Miles.

Graveside services were held Dec. 23 at Fairview Cemetery, Willow Grove.