July 5, 1929 - Nov. 11, 2020
Ruth Estelle Miller, a Eugene community leader with an extensive list of civic contributions, died peacefully with her family on November 11, 2020, of natural causes at the age of 91.
A Celebration of Life will be held in Eugene in 2021 for Ruth's family and friends once it is safe to do so.
Ruth was born July 5, 1929, in Toledo, Ohio, and graduated in 1947 from Lakewood High School in Lakewood, Ohio. She earned a Bachelor of Arts and teaching certificate from the University of Michigan in 1952 and a master's degree in public affairs from the University of Oregon in 1976.
Despite her parent's objections because of her young age, Ruth married Richard E. Miller in Plymouth, Mich., on January 25, 1949. They had been sweethearts since high school and were just 19 and 21 years old, respectively, when they married. In 1952, the couple moved to Eugene, where Dick established his law practice, and he and Ruth began their years of community service while raising their three daughters.
Following her mother's example, Ruth joined the local affiliates of the League of Women Voters and the American Association of University Women in 1955. She credited her involvement with the League of Women Voters of Lane County for her lifelong activism and many close friendships. Several of the women involved at that time became well-known civic leaders and held elected office. In addition to developing leaders, this group helped women establish financial independence during a time when women were not even allowed to open bank accounts without their husbands' consent. They also advocated for the passing of the Equal Rights Amendment and pushed tirelessly for reproductive freedom.
Ruth was on the League Board of Directors from 1956 to 1967 and was board president from 1965 to 1967. As president of the League, Ruth was instrumental in bringing together a coalition of community leaders and groups in 1968 to establish Child Care, Inc., a federal program designed to provide subsidized day care for children of low-income families. She and the League also helped establish the child care center at Lane Community College when LCC opened in 1969, and created the Lane County Community Coordinated Child Care (4Cs) with LCC, Eugene District 4J and the University of Oregon.
Ruth cared deeply about "her town" and its citizens. She was nominated as one of the Eugene Jaycee's Outstanding Young Women of the Year in 1960 and was active in the Junior Service League and United Appeal during that time. For several years in the late 60s, she was busy as a Girl Scout leader for her middle daughter's troop. Always a groundbreaker, Ruth was the only female commissioner of the Urban Renewal Agency of Eugene beginning in 1967 and served when the agency oversaw the closing of Willamette Street and the development of the Eugene downtown mall in 1971. Thirty years later, she and her husband were active in the efforts to prevent its re-opening.
Ruth retired as a neighborhood liaison for the City of Eugene in 1984, a position she shared for eight years with former Eugene City Council member Beth Campbell, in what was then a novel arrangement of "job sharing". The duo grew the number of neighborhood associations to 19 active groups (currently 23) and developed and trained community leaders, many of whom eventually ran for the Eugene City Council.
Ruth was a volunteer and founding member of the Eugene City Club and volunteered for the Oregon Law Center in Eugene until earlier this year. She donated, made phone calls and door-knocked for the Democratic Party and numerous candidates and ballot measures during the past 40 years. She participated in the Women's March following the 2016 election and voiced her concerns to elected officials routinely. And, to answer the question many have asked: Yes, she knew that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won the election and smiled when she was informed. The COVID mask she wore throughout the past several months read: "Masked but not silenced. VOTE".
Ruth was an avid—and competitive—tennis player, golfer and snow skier, and enjoyed these sports with her husband and their daughters, their spouses and grandchildren as often as possible. She loved traveling the world, movies, books, live theater, watching the news and the Ducks and, of course, political discussions. She led two bridge clubs a week and helped organize a "Women of Wisdom" wine and nibbles group at Patterson Tower. Ruth was known for her gift as a listener, yet was always ready to challenge an unsubstantiated position. She had a knack for remembering the details of one's life and was a particular favorite of young people because she took a sincere interest in their points of view, hopes and dreams.
A few years after Dick Miller's death in 1993, family friend Dick Hayward of Eugene became Ruth's life partner until his death in 2012. The Hayward and Miller families continue to enjoy the closeness that began with her friendship in the 1950s with Nancy Hayward during their work with the League of Women Voters and their mutual love of tennis.
Ruth is survived by three married daughters: Sharon Miller of Redmond, Wash. and her husband Art Olsen, Lisa Miller-Piske of Seattle and her husband Dave Miller-Piske, and Marlee Miller of Boonsboro, Md./St. Croix, USVI and her husband Jim Asendio; five grandchildren: Reid Olsen, Tyler Olsen and Georgia Miller-Piske of Seattle, Laura Asendio of Austin, Texas, and Dana Asendio-Schneider of Mission Viejo, Calif., plus two great granddaughters: Cora Ruth Olsen and Nina Lou Olsen of Seattle.
If you would like to make a contribution in her memory, these four organizations were close to Ruth's heart: League of Women Voters of Lane County, Compassion & Choices, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and ACLU of Oregon.
Ruth was a remarkable daughter, sister, wife, partner, mother, aunt, mother-in-law, grandmother, great grandmother and friend. She lived a life full of enduring accomplishments and shared her positivity with everyone she met. She will be missed, but her friends and family will forever be thankful she was a part of their lives.
Please sign the guest book at www.registerguard.com/legacy