Justin Miller, a young Streamwood drummer who kept drumming -- and inspiring others -- even after losing his dominant arm to cancer, has succumbed to the disease he fought so hard.
Justin always kept his spirits high, living by the late basketball coach Jimmy Valvano's motto to laugh at least once a day, his older sister Lindsey said.
He died April 3, less than three weeks shy of his 21st birthday, after fighting a five-year battle with epithelioid sarcoma. The Daily Herald profiled Justin in the Suburban Standouts column in October 2011, five months after his arm was amputated.
Justin was pursuing an anthropology degree at Elgin Community College after graduating from Streamwood High School in 2010.
In high school, he was an active member of the marching band and drum line. After graduation, he continued to volunteer with the school band, assisting with concerts, theater productions, and drum line camp.
He was also an integral part of two praise bands and an ensemble at Our Redeemer's United Methodist Church in Schaumburg, where a memorial service will be held Saturday.
A huge Green Bay Packers fan, Justin loved to build bonfires during his family's fall gatherings in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Lindsey said.
He also liked to play impromptu games, such as asking his siblings and parents to talk at dinner about their favorite part of the day.
Justin was always gregarious and helpful, she said.
"He loved to help my dad with projects around the house. He loved to help my grandpa with projects and yardwork. He and my mom, raking leaves was their time together."
Justin remained unfailingly positive that there would be a next step, a next treatment plan, Lindsey said.
He was in the hospital when one of his doctors broke the news that his options had run out. "The doctor asked him, what were his goals?" Lindsey said.
"He answered, 'I want my family and friends to come and see me, so that I can tell them that I love them.'"
At the memorial service, the drum line will perform a cadence that Justin taught them, said Streamwood High School graduate Dan Kwak, who will join in the occasion.
Justin was an excellent drummer, a friend and mentor who taught him not just about music, but about leadership, Dan said.
"Him trying his best despite having one arm, it was really inspirational. It really motivated us to watch him," he said. "I know he influenced a lot more people that just me."
Justin leaves behind his parents, Stephan and Peggy Miller, a twin brother, Jeremy, his paternal grandparents, Richard and Betty Miller, and maternal grandparents, Joe and Sharon Pollard.
On Saturday, the gathering starts at 5:30 p.m. with a memorial service at 6:33 p.m. (based on the scripture Matthew 6:33) at Our Redeemer's United Methodist Church, 1600 W. Schaumburg Road.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to CureSearch, Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, or for a sound system at Our Redeemer's United Methodist Church.