Sally B. Miller

The long­time Guil­ford res­i­dent and civic ac­tivist en­joyed art his­tory and col­lect­ing Chi­nese art

Baltimore Sun - - OBITUARIES - By Fred­er­ick N. Ras­mussen fras­mussen@balt­sun.com

Sally B. Miller, who with her late hus­band was ac­tive for decades in the city’s cul­tural and artis­tic life, died Wed­nes­day of can­cer at her home in the St. James Con­do­mini­ums on North Charles Street. She was 81. “Sally was a re­mark­able per­son. She was very in­tel­lec­tu­ally cu­ri­ous and wanted to learn about so many things. She wanted to know what was go­ing on in the city, in Chi­nese art and in pol­i­tics,” said Peggy Heller, a close friend of nearly 70 years and a high school class­mate.

“She al­ways wanted to stretch her mind and never stopped learn­ing. She was a star and a very kind per­son. Her death is a loss for our city, her fam­ily and for those who were lucky to have been friends with her,” said Ms. Heller, who lives in the Rock­land area of Baltimore County.

“She was a class act,” said Shale D. Stiller, a long­time friend and part­ner at DLA Piper, where Mrs. Miller’s hus­band, Decatur H. “Deke” Miller III, had been chair­man and manag­ing part­ner.

“She was al­ways very help­ful to Deke and his civic work. She was a strong right arm for him. She was his bul­wark,” said Mr. Stiller, who lives in North Roland Park. “She was al­ways to­tally hon­est and straight. Just a won­der­fully in­tel­li­gent in­di­vid­ual.”

The daugh­ter of Dr. Howard Chan­dler Smith, a urol­o­gist, and Mary Bur­nam Smith, a civic leader. Sally Bur­nam Smith was born in Baltimore and raised in the city’s Bel­lon­aGit­tings neigh­bor­hood.

After grad­u­at­ing in 1953 from Bryn Mawr School, she at­tended Vas­sar Col­lege in New York for two years, then from 1955 to 1957 at­tended Goucher Col­lege.

From 1957 to 1958, she spent a year in Florence, Italy, in in­de­pen­dent art his­tory study, then re­turned to Goucher and earned a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in 1958 in the his­tory of art. In1963, she stud­ied at At­ting­ham Park, a National Trust man­sion and es­tate in Shrop­shire, England.

In 1963, she mar­ried Mr. Miller, and for years the cou­ple lived in Whit­field Road in Guil­ford un­til mov­ing to the St. James in 2001. He died last year.

Mrs. Miller served on the board of Union Me­mo­rial Hos­pi­tal from 1970 to 1978 and Planned Par­ent­hood of Mary­land from1980 to 1986. From 1988 to 2000, she was a trus­tee of the Baltimore Com­mu­nity Foundation and from 1995 to 2000 was on the board of the As­so­ci­a­tion of Baltimore Area Grant Mak­ers.

It was her love of art — she and her hus­band en­joyed col­lect­ing Chi­nese art — that was a fo­cus for Mrs. Miller. She was a trus­tee of the Baltimore Mu­seum of Art from 1985 to 1991 and was a mem­ber of its Friends of the Amer­i­can Wing, Friends of Modern Art, and the Print and Draw­ing So­ci­ety.

She was also a mem­ber of the Wal­ters Art Mu­seum and its Friends of the Asian Col­lec­tion.

“Sally loved art, mu­sic, bal­let, theater and travel. She was also very well-read and a won­der­ful trav­el­ing com­pan­ion,” said Rheda Becker of Guil­ford, a friend of more than 35 years. “She and Deke were two sides of the same coin. They were a golden pair and just glo­ri­ous peo­ple.”

“My hus­band and I met her in 1979 when we moved here, and she and Deke in­stantly em­braced us. They had a party and en­ter­tained us,” said Gail Oster­gaard, of Rux­ton. “We both loved art and gar­den­ing, and she got me in­volved at the BMA, where I even­tu­ally be­came a do­cent.”

Mrs. Miller had been a mem­ber of the Art Sem­i­nar Group, a Bal­ti­more­based group de­voted to the study of art, and served on its steer­ing com­mit­tee.

She was a mem­ber of the St. Ge­orge’s Gar­den Club and a past board mem­ber of the Women’s Hamilton Street Club and the Mount Ver­non Club.

“She had friends from all over, and she knew the names of her friends’ sons and daugh­ters and would ask about them,” Mrs. Oster­gaard said. “She knew ev­ery­one in town and who was re­lated to who.”

“Sally had a huge co­terie of friends from all over the world,” Mrs. Heller said.

“We had a long-stand­ing, beau­ti­ful and cher­ished friend­ship,” Mrs. Becker said. “She was very kind, and I greatly ad­mired her. And she was very coura­geous and ac­cepted her ill­ness with grace.”

Mrs. Becker de­scribed her as “a great lis­tener.”

“Sally was gen­uinely in­ter­ested in you, your fam­ily and your work,” she said. “She couldn’t have been a more at­ten­tive friend.”

Plans for a re­mem­brance to be held in the spring are in­com­plete.

Mrs. Miller is sur­vived by her daugh­ter, Cle­mence Mary Kather­ine “Clem­mie” Miller of North Baltimore; two sis­ters, Mary “Mimi” Cooper of Cross Keys and Florence Stone of Wash­ing­ton; and a grand­son. Sally B. Miller served on the board of Planned Par­ent­hood of Mary­land from1980 to 1986.

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