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Mary Adeline Cooke Miller

Loving mother, devoted friend, passionate humanitarian

Mary Adeline Cooke Miller died on December 18, 2013 at the Claremont Manor Care Center after complications following surgery for a broken leg. She was 91. Known by her family and friends as ‘Macky,’ she will be remembered as a loving mother, devoted friend and champion for those on the margins of society.

Mrs. Miller was born October 19, 1922 to W. Henry and Jennie Cooke of Claremont. She graduated from Pomona College in 1943 and went on to spend two years in the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES) program. Stationed in Atlanta, she trained pilots to use Link Trainer flight simulators. After working for the Bureau of Occupations at UCLA, she traveled to France on the GI Bill to study French at the University of Grenoble in 1949. There, she met Charles Sanford Miller, who coincidentally had been planning to come to the Claremont Graduate School to study history with Mrs. Miller’s father. The two married in 1950 and made their home in Claremont before moving to the Red Hill area of Rancho Cucamonga.

A lifelong teacher, Mrs. Miller began her career at Claremont’s Oakmont Elementary School in 1952, moved to Sycamore School in 1953 and returned to teaching at the Valle Vista School in Rancho Cucamonga in 1966. She happily taught kindergarten and bilingual first grade at Valle Vista, in addition to the second, third and fourth grades, until her retirement in 1983.

In 1975, she attended a Spanish immersion program in Cuernavaca, Mexico, and went on to receive her bilingual certification at Cal Poly Pomona a few years later. Like her parents, Mrs. Miller had a deep sensitivity to the plight of area immigrant communities.

In her early years at the Valle Vista School, she began voluntarily teaching English in nearby migrant labor camps. She recognized the need for parents as well as children to learn English so parents could navigate the challenges of the school system and help their children excel. Many of those with whom she worked became members of her extended family.

After retirement, Mrs. Miller and her husband, Charlie, became very involved in Volunteer Vital English, a local nonprofit that organized volunteers to teach English to Spanish-speaking people in their homes and workplaces. Eventually, the couple both held the position of president in the organization.

While Mrs. Miller had many close friends, she also formed friendships over the years that transcended common socioeconomic barriers. Among her dear friends were housekeepers, janitors and others in various service industries. One friend recently remembered that Ms. Miller’s superiors sometimes cautioned against such liaisons. “It’s not a good idea to make friends with the help,” the supervisor had told her.

Mrs. Miller was an ardent supporter of many humanitarian causes. She loved nature and had a heightened awareness to the things that filled it. She was encyclopedic in her knowledge of trees, birds, flowers and constellations. She enjoyed gardening, and the family dwellings were always elegantly appointed with living blooms and fresh-cut flowers.

Fond of crossword puzzles, Mrs. Miller almost always triumphed in the beloved family game of “categories.” She had a particular passion for the Lakers and did not suffer their errors gladly, as all who watched games with her would attest. She also loved music, particularly classical music and that from the Big Band era. During her last years, classical radio station KUSC was her steady companion. Its strains constantly filled her apartment whenever she was not watching Jeopardy, Doc Martin, the Dodgers or the Lakers.

Mrs. Miller is survived by sisters Ruth Cooke Henzie of Claremont and Frances Cooke Browne of Silver City, New Mexico; daughter Nancy Raabe (Bill), of Milton, Wisconsin; her son Brian of Claremont; a daughter by marriage, Myriam Charpentier (Jacques) of Poitiers, France; three grandchildren, Margaret and Martin Raabe and Johnathan Emerson; two grandchildren by marriage, Herve Charpentier and Sophie Payet (Thierry); four great-grandchildren by marriage; and several nieces and nephews.

A service of committal will be held at Oak Park Cemetery, 410 S. Sycamore Ave., Claremont at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, January 25, 2014, the Reverend Jennifer Browne presiding. Memorials may be directed to the Claremont United Church of Christ, 233 W. Harrison Ave., Claremont, California, 91711, with “Mary Miller Memorial” in the memo line.

 

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