A vibrant, indominable spirit has passed. Kate Miller – gifted mom and regional leader in philanthropy, community development, and affordable housing in Greater Hartford – died peacefully on Thursday February 4, 2021 at home in West Hartford following a battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), otherwise known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. Kate was 68 years old. In a professional and personal career that spanned corporate, philanthropic and nonprofit worlds, she was laser-focused on promoting positive social change, and improving the everyday lives for those in need in her community. Her professional and personal interests overlapped, bringing strong analytic, business and social justice skills to bear on programs of importance in her community. Even during her illness over the past three years, she was active. She raised tens of thousands of dollars for the ALS Association of CT, and participated briefly in efforts to advocate before Congress for changes to help those with ALS. Until the end, she participated in an arduous, cutting edge clinical trial in Boston at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), one 16 sufferers worldwide searching for a cure for her rare form of ALS. She had a rich and full personal life. She reared three children, and was married to Jeffrey Daniels for 36 years. Throughout her life Kate enjoyed varied artistic endeavors. She created whimsical works of clay and later mastered quilting. Unique pieces with geometric designs adorn the beds of homes across several states, and especially at her favorite spot, a summer place in Rhode Island. She was an extraordinary listener, a wonderful spouse and mother, a terse and efficient writer, a respected and trusted counselor -- all expressed with a reserved warmth. She marched through life confidently, and on her famous walks "survivors" were left struggling to keep up. Kate had a strong "business side" and "never met a number she didn't like". She possessed a dry wit, a practical sense of what needed doing, and in another life might have challenged Paul Newman to a salad dressing competition. Most of all, she had an uncanny ability to speak just the right words, to cut through things and bring people together. She leaves behind an extended family; her husband; two daughters: Casey Talbott Daniels and spouse Holger Goehl of Brooklyn, NY; Jenna Knox Daniels and her partner Jamecia Estes of Northampton, MA; a stepson, Booth Geoffrey Daniels, his spouse Suzanne and granddaughter Abigail of Maplewood, NJ. Also, she is survived by three siblings: Tollie Miller and her partner Valerie Rossetti, MD., of Bloomfield; Marion "Bonnie" Miller of South Hadley, MA, and Mitchell Miller and spouse Christine, of Manhattan. She was born in Baltimore to the late Dr. Mitchell & Helen Miller. Kate came to New England to attend Trinity College, Hartford, joining the college's first co-ed class. Graduated with a BA in philosophy, she later earned an MBA from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She devoted an extensive part of her professional life to leadership roles at multiple philanthropic enterprises. She was corporate responsibility officer and secretary of the Connecticut Mutual Foundation at the Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance Company, where she was a prime leader in the company's fight against apartheid in South Africa. She worked with a team that positioned the company to vote its millions of shares of stock to support anti-apartheid advocates, a successful effort to coerce major US corporations to divest their holdings in South Africa until apartheid was abolished. Apartheid ended in 1994. Her expertise in housing and community development was forged at Connecticut Mutual, where she helped oversee the firm's social purpose investment portfolio. And in the mid-90s she did a stint in the nonprofit world, serving as resource development director at Foodshare, the region's anti-hunger program, organizing its annual fund-raising walk. Her skills in housing and community development were honed while serving as officer at the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), a national housing developer, and as executive director of the Hartford Neighborhood Development Collaborative, a partnership of major foundations, city businesses and United Way, which provided seed money and financing for community development projects. She returned to philanthropy in the late 1990s, capping a varied professional career as executive director of The Fund for Greater Hartford, an endowed foundation making grants in Greater Hartford to children's programs, the arts, and social services. One of her favorites was support to dozens of summer day camps for Hartford children. Her volunteer work paralleled her professional career, with a particular focus on affordable housing. Active in West Hartford, Kate was a director of Trout Brook Realty Advisors, the financing arm of the West Hartford Housing Authority. Subsequently she was appointed by the Town Council as a director, then chair of the housing authority, where over a decade she led the authority in the completion of several major projects, most notably expanding A.F. Plant elderly affordable housing on Farmington Avenue. Under her tenure, major projects such as Goodwin Affordable Housing in the Elmwood section, and the busway-linked housing on New Park Avenue, were completed. Additional community work dotted her career. She was vice president of The Judy Dworin Performance Project, a regional dance troupe helping incarcerated women chart new lives. Kate served on a wide array of boards, among them the Connecticut House Investment Fund, Asylum Hill, Inc., chair of the CT Council for Philanthropy, the Coordinating Council for Foundations, Knox Foundation, Hartford Community Television, the Corporation for Independent Living, the Connecticut Housing Investment Fund and the Capital Housing Finance Corporation. The family wants to offer their appreciation to the Suma Babu, MD, and the ALS team at MGH, and especially to Eileen Melendez, Moveta Plummer and Erica Taylor, all of whom gave Kate special attention and care during her illness, and to Kareen Wright at Dynamic Touch, who organized it. Together, they made Kate's journey so much easier. In lieu of flowers, Kate would be pleased to see contributions to the ALS Association of CT and The Judy Dworin Performance Project. Arrangements are being handled by Weinstein's Mortuary, 640 Farmington Avenue, Hartford, CT, firstname.lastname@example.org. No services are planned; a memorial will be scheduled when the nation emerges from the grip of Covid 19.
Published in Hartford Courant on Feb. 7, 2021.