Margaret Miller joined Save The Bay in 2014. We don’t know one person lucky enough to work with Margaret who was not touched by her kindness, humor and the ever-present sparkle in her eye. Margaret was deeply passionate about saving the Bay and inspired others to do so through her incredible talent as a writer. We invite you to read her family’s loving tribute below and join us in remembering her.
SEPTEMBER 1963 – JANUARY 2017
Margaret Alexis Miller died too soon on January 10, 2017, at her home in Berkeley, California. She was 53 years old.
Deep adventure, curiosity, generosity and empathy were at the heart of Margaret. She was born September 29, 1963, and grew up in New Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the third child and only daughter of Dr. David L. Miller and Jane Kreider Miller. Her childhood was spent exploring the forests and fields of Clarion County, meeting her parents’ friends from rural Pennsylvania and countless points beyond, and reveling in the recreation and intellectual stimuli of the Chautauqua Institution, where her family then spent summers. Margaret’s family spent three months in Thailand when she was a girl, and she began seeing herself as more than a child of Pennsylvania. She recalled that from her childhood, “My deepest solitary pleasure as a kid was climbing a particular maple tree near a small stream and sinking into a sort of alert trance – waiting and watching to see who/what might walk beneath me. Sometimes my mind would race, but more often my thinking derailed and stalled. My hearing became more acute, then it seemed to switch off. Eyes open, I saw everything, but nothing. I felt blind to all but movement, all colors washed together.” Margaret completed an International Baccalaureate as her secondary education at Atlantic College, and then studied phenomenology of religion at Princeton University, where she earned a BA under Dr. Elaine Pagels. Her desire to learn and participate in wide varieties of religious experience included travels in China, Tibet, the Taize Community in France, and enthusiastic attendance at all things Chautauqua.
Margaret’s empathy widened as a result of her study of religion, and her insights into what it means to be human were shared thanks to her skill as a writer and storyteller. She was a reporter for the Chautauqua Daily, first as a student and later as a professional. She worked for two magazines prior to moving to Berkeley, where she began graduate studies in religion and then transferred full-time to the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California. Her expertise was recognized by Tom Goldstein, then Dean of the Graduate School, who created an Assistant Dean position for her. Margaret’s love for people and support of their storytelling included stints in raising financial support for the School and exploring what was then called New Media. Margaret spent a year covering crime and metro news for the Seattle Times.
She was drawn back to the Bay Area, and her hair stylist set her up on a date with Laura Horn. On their second date, Margaret made it clear to Laura that children would become part of the deal, and soon after they won each other’s hearts. Margaret and Laura married on July 1, 2008 soon after their marriage rights were affirmed in California. Their two children Ming Hai Jane Miller Horn, now 19, and Chan Chamren David Miller Horn, now 17, were the center of their lives. Margaret and Laura immersed themselves into the world of parenting, and provided multicultural experiences to the children, and modeled positive risk taking and boundless hospitality, opening their children to greater possibilities.
Margaret’s skills as a writer, editor and storyteller were utilized as part of efforts to strengthen programs for children living in poverty, LGBTQ families, saving the Bay, and expansion of community colleges. Her insights into mental health challenges inspired others. She knew that her experience gave her “the unexpected and enriching gifts of depression, like patience, humility, insight and empathy.” That charisma earned her a constellation of friends from all continents fiercely grateful for her understanding, compassion and intelligence, and uniformly remembering her for her keen intelligence, willingness to hike any terrain in any weather, and propelling drive to bring equity and justice into the world. She sometimes baked two pies in a single day, and revered others with enthusiasm and integrity.
Those of us who knew her and loved her most – notably, her wife Laura Horn, their children Ming and Chamren, her brother Jim and his wife, Chrissie, her nieces Alexis and Laura, her brother Jeff and his wife Francoise, and niece Sarah and nephews Benjamin and Bryce – along with cousins, 98 year old aunt Annabel Kreider Schnure, and armies of devoted friends – are mourning her death but inspired by her originality and zest.
A memorial service will take place at 11:00 am on Sunday, February 12, 2017 at the Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar Street, Berkeley, California.