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After reaching a 100-year-old milestone this past April and celebrating a life extraordinarily well-lived, Doris Miller died peacefully on Thursday, January 4, 2018 at the Lutheran Home at Trinity Oaks. Doris was born in Yale, South Dakota, to the late Harry Mendenhall and Ella Burnworth Mendenhall, moving later to Nebraska, Kansas, Arkansas, and finally to North Carolina.
As a child of the depression (nope, she never felt poor!), Doris used to covet her Christmas gifts: a used watch from a pawn shop, a coconut she loved to crack open for the milk, an orange of which she’d eat one slice a day to make it last longer, the family Christmas tree her dad did his best to fashion from a limb he’d cut from one of their cedars. While the expense to go away to college precluded Doris from accepting a scholarship to Nebraska Wesleyan University, this young woman would not be deterred; she graduated by correspondence from the American Business College of Omaha, propelling her to great heights in the secretarial world based on her unmatched typing skills.
Then a blind date with a handsome young dental student changed everything. Doris and Russell Miller were married in 1938, a love affair that would last 56 years until his death in 1994. Adopted twin babies Jack and Jean made this family complete.
As if this double-duty child-rearing wasn’t enough to keep her busy, Doris found time to remodel several homes, make clothes, write poetry, create myriad family scrap books, keep meticulous financial records of every penny made and spent, sing in her church choir, volunteer for community organizations, play a shrewd hand of bridge, compete on the golf course, and travel the world. Doris’s keen intellect kept her abreast of all current events. Lutheran Home staff still laughs over testing her mental state by asking her to name the U.S. President, and Doris responding, “You mean, who thinks he’s President?” And how many centenarians do you know who Skype and Facebook?!
Ever the organizer, Doris knew what she wanted in death as in life. She left her family a thick notebook containing all her final wishes, including who should get what (silverware to anyone who wants to clean it, leftover wine to Jean!).
In the end, it is not so much what Doris accomplished in life, as the person she was. Full of grace and dignity, always impeccably dressed with hair in a bun and make-up applied, Doris was still that kind, big-hearted, humble Midwest farm girl at heart. She lived always what she preached: be grateful, be kind, forgive, and love unconditionally. This is the legacy for which Doris will be remembered … by her children, grandchildren (to whom she will always be “Grimmy”), and anyone who had the good fortune to know her.
In addition to her parents, Doris is preceded in death by her husband Dr. Russell Miller, her son John (Jack) E. Miller, and sisters Lillian LeGrand and Thelma Sass. She is survived by her daughter Jean Wurster and partner James Taylor; daughter-in-law Gwen Miller; and grandchildren Gregory, Mark, Elizabeth (Andrew) Wurster, and Ryan (Hannah) Miller.
The family wishes to express appreciation for special friends Helen Barber, Myretta Castellani, and Jack and Jill Connery.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to First Presbyterian Church or choice of the donor. Carolina Cremation of Salisbury is assisting the Miller family. Online condolences may be made at www.carolinacremation.com.