Sally B. Miller
The longtime Guilford resident and civic activist enjoyed art history and collecting Chinese art
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.