Died quietly, with her children by her side, on October 4, 2013. The only daughter of Irene Weinreich Miller and H. Dean Miller, she began her remarkable life on May 18, 1919 in Chicago, Illinois. When she was only an infant, she showed her strength and capacity for life by surviving a bout of pneumonia and diphtheria without the benefit of antibiotics. As a teenager, she suffered a devastating loss when her older brother, Dean, died of pneumonia following a cold November football game. Marge loved her years at Oak Park High School and the University of Illinois, where she graduated with honors, with a Bachelor's degree in Education. She married Edward T. Wanderer, a fellow alum from both her alma maters, and moved with him to New Kensington, Pennsylvania in 1941, where he began a career as an engineer with Alcoa. Marge looked forward to life as a homemaker, but World War II intervened, causing a teacher shortage and leading her to accept her first job teaching at New Kensington High School. When the war ended, and she had her first child, Dean, she left her teaching job, thinking her career was over. After her daughter, Nancy, was born two years later, she felt content to be a full-time mother. Even though she had left paid employment, however, her leadership ability led her to become involved in many civic activities, including positions as President of the Edgewood School PTA and the New Kensington Junior Women's Club. In the latter role, she arranged for a visit to the United Nations, where a group of New Kensington women met with former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. She also had a short stint as a television personality, giving tips for cub scout leaders in a program on WQED. Perhaps her most outstanding role in those days was as Leader of Girl Scout Troop 66, a position she took to amazing heights, culminating in a production of "Oklahoma" that was attended by nearly everyone in town. In 1961, Marge was asked to fill in for an English teacher at Ridge Avenue Junior High School in New Kensington for a year. After that, her teaching career took off, leading to seven years teaching English at Lower Burrell Junior High School and fourteen years at Fox Chapel High School. During those years, she became legendary for her enthusiasm, sense of humor and ability to motivate and inspire students of all ability levels. She engaged students who had never succeeded in school to love literature by having them design sets and perform Shakespeare plays in the classroom. She taught grammar with games and activities everyone enjoyed. She told captivating stories and made literature and learning come alive. Most of all, she took time to know her students individually and help them recognize their unique worth. After years as an extraordinary mother and teacher, Marge became an extraordinary grandmother to her four grandchildren, Andrew and Peter Mackenzie, and Amy and Edward Wanderer. She and Ed took them on trips both nationally and internationally, culminating in a trip with each grandchild on the ocean liner, the QE II, providing lifelong memories and an appreciation for history, literature and diverse cultures. As her grandson, Edward, said, "My grandmother could charm and entertain. When she talked to people, she genuinely wanted to know how they were doing. Her laughter, interest in young people and encouragement, were real. Perhaps her greatest legacy was her desire to see others succeed. She had a passion for inspiring young people to seek and fulfill their greatest potential." Marge also had five great-grandchildren who were lucky enough to know her for a few years, at least Peter and his wife, Regina's two sons, Samuel and Iain, and Edward and his wife, Susan's three children, Joshua, Ruth and Dibora; Dean's wife, Katharine Harding Wanderer; Nancy's partner, Susan Sanders; Marge's Gamma Phi Beta Sorority sister and roommate, Billie Bartle Berg; her neighbor and special companion, Joyce Rapsinski and her family; all her friends at Longwood at Oakmont; and all her former students and other friends join in grieving the loss of this wonderful mother, grandmother, teacher, and friend. A celebration of Marge's Life will be held on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 10:00 a.m. in the Ballroom at Longwood at Oakmont, 500 Route 909, Verona, Pennsylvania, 15147. In lieu of flowers, the family asks you to make donations in her name to either the Wellesley College Students' Aid Society, 106 Central Street, Wellesley, MA 02481-8203 or to Mawkria School, a school located in a primitive village in northeast India that is supported by the Unitarian Church. To support the Mawkria School, please make out a check to Accotink U.U. Church, write "Mawkria School" on the memo line, and send the check to 10125 Lakehaven Court, Burke, VA 22015.
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Published in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Oct. 9, 2013