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Elizabeth Bailey Miller
October 1913 January 2010
Elizabeth Bailey was born Oct. 4, 1913 in Berkeley, Calif., the elder daughter of a US Navy surgeon and a University of California instructor. Her father died when she was quite young. Betty took on adult responsibilities early, helping to run the household and look after her younger sister, Frances, while their mother became the breadwinner.
She grew up in Berkeley, and attended University High School, whose motto was “The progress of all, through all, under the leadership of the wisest and best.” She graduated with honors from the University of California at Berkeley in 1937 with a major in Zoology. She married Russell Sparks Miller promptly after graduation, and went to work, in the depths of the Depression, for the Charities Commission in Oakland while her husband pursued a Master’s degree in Forestry at UC Berkeley. Later, she taught school, and as was common in those days, retired from the classroom when she had children. She continued to teach, both explicitly and by example, all her life.
Betty was a natural leader and organizer; she was a scout camp counselor, editor of her high school yearbook, and vice-president of Delta Zeta, her Cal sorority. When she was in school, she excelled in athletic pursuits, and enjoyed horseback riding, hiking, camping and other outdoor activities throughout her life. She was tall and slender, beautiful and accomplished: she played piano, and possessed a beautiful lyric soprano singing voice.
Betty met Russell when she was in Treble Clef (the women’s elite singing group at Cal) and he was in Glee Club. Russ’s opening line to her was “I like the way you stand up,” which must have been very welcome to her 6-foot-tall self. She was a featured soloist in church choirs and for weddings throughout her early life. She loved the opera, symphony, and ballet, and held season tickets for the San Francisco performing companies for many years.
She was especially knowledgeable about the birds and plants of California, and enjoyed watching the birds that were year-round residents and seasonal visitors at the Ranch. Before her children were born, she and Russell lived in Yosemite, when he was a park ranger. She loved the natural beauty she found there, and at the Tahoe cabin where the family spent time every summer. Later in her life, she especially enjoyed traveling with Russ to the Northern California redwoods in their travel trailer. She was deeply concerned throughout her life about the environmental degradation that results from overpopulation, pollution, and wasteful use of natural resources.
Betty had a way of connecting to people that meant she had many friends of all ages throughout her life. She and Russell brought up three children, and in addition, they functioned as surrogate parents or mentors to a large number of youngsters.
She was a firm believer in the power of education as the means to advancement and a successful life. Betty tutored a neighbor girl in high school Spanish (though she knew no Spanish), and in algebra (though math was not her strongest subject), then guided her through the steps to apply for college, and earn a degree and a teacher’s credential. She supported other girls though their crushes and broken hearts, and encouraged them to build emotionally and financially independent lives. She mentored yet other girls from economically and educationally disadvantaged homes, encouraging them to dream of college, then helping them obtain college applications, apply for scholarships, and plan and fulfill an academic career. She served on the Scholarship Committee for her chapter of the University of California Alumni Association.
Betty was an excellent cook, seamstress, knitter, gardener, and homemaker.
She put all her organizational talents to good use in running a busy household. Like many mothers, Betty became deeply involved in her kids’ activities. For a time, she was a 4-H club mom; she helped her young sons to raise lambs and chickens, and in addition, taught a group of high school girls to sew so they could complete their 4-H club projects.
Later she was a Cub Scout mom, and a Brownie and Girl Scout troop leader.
She developed programs and activities for her scout troop, and helped create, coordinate, and lead shared activities with other local scout troops. She made her large front lawn available for scout troops to have overnight campouts, complete with open-fire cooking and sleeping under the stars. She served as Girl Scout day camp and established camp counselor, and helped found the Tioga Area Girl Scout Council. Long after other moms had dropped out because their own daughters had “aged out” of scouting, she continued her involvement in the Girl Scouts. She continued leading groups of girls on scouting-sponsored trips and activities. For decades she served as Secretary of the Tioga Area Girl Scout Council, and help reorganize into the Muir Trail Girl Scout Council. She received special recognition for her lifetime of service to the Girl Scouts from the Muir Trail Girl Scout Council.
For a number of years, both before and after the death of her husband, she volunteered at Gustine High School, helping the young people explore their futures, and aim higher.
She was devoted to service to others. She never went empty-handed when she visited a friend or relative, often bringing fruits, nuts or vegetables from the ranch, or flowers from her garden. She spent a lifetime looking after her husband’s and her own elderly family members, one after another, as they endured their lengthy terminal illnesses. Later, after surviving two bouts with cancer herself, she volunteered as an Angel on Wheels for the local Cancer Society, driving people to and from radiation or chemotherapy. She enjoyed participating in Gustine Community Club, Bridge Club, and Page Flippers Book Club activities, as well as outings with the Gustine Historical Society, for whom she served as a docent. In 1996, she received the Hills Ferry Soroptimist Club Award for Women Helping Women.
Although originally a city girl, she loved life in the country, and the sense of peace and space it provided. She took great pleasure to look out at the hills behind her home, and at the many trees her husband planted.
She enjoyed the changing seasons of farm life, and watching the birds and animals as they came and went through the year.
In her final decade she at last slowed down, and became willing to let others do for her. She was well-cared for in her own home until she needed more support, and moved to an assisting living facility in Modesto for her last five months of life. She passed away peacefully on Jan. 10, 2010, in her 97th year.
She is survived by three children, Martin R. Miller (Alice) of Modesto, Ralph H. Miller (Nan) of Claremont and Melissa E. Miller (Lewis Smith) of Santa Clara; grandchildren, Marc H. Miller of Glendale and Mitchell M. Miller (Letitia) of Modesto; and three great-grandchildren.
A memorial Celebration of Life will be held at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 6 at Pea Soup Andersen’s in Santa Nella, Calif. Luncheon to follow.
In lieu of flowers, please make memorial donations to: Girl Scouts Heart of Central California, 3005 Gold Canal Dr., Rancho Cordova, CA 95670-6129 or The Gustine Historical Society Endowment Fund, 803 Laurel Ave., Gustine, CA 95322.
Allen Mortuary is in charge of arrangements, please share your memories at