Miller—Colette Jackman Miller, 81, on February 15, 2017, in Seasons Hospice House in Rochester, Minn., of bile duct cancer. Colette was born on July 26, 1935, in Rochester, Minn., the only daughter of Lois Hovenden and Raymond Jackman. She attended Edison Elementary and Central Junior High, taking up family responsibilities at 12 when her mother became seriously ill. She also worked at the Gingerbread House (then Home Bakery) during high school, graduating from Rochester High School in 1953 and from Michigan State University with honors in 1957, afterward waitressing on the SS South American, which cruised the Great Lakes.
She married W. Eugene Miller while she was studying vocational rehabilitation in graduate school at the University of Minnesota, and they had three children: Kenton, Kimberly, and Kevin. She was a powerful and loving influence in the lives of hundreds of Rochester’s children, teaching at Aldrich Nursery School for over 40 years. She also tutored dyslexic children in the Reading Center, helped to found Dorothy Day Hospitality House in the early 1980s to provide temporary housing for the homeless, and regularly volunteered at the Channel One Regional Food Bank, coordinating Quaker participation in this work.
Colette’s marriage to Eugene ended in divorce, and she married John Francis Gurtz in 1992 under the care of Rochester (Minn.) Meeting. They planted a ginkgo tree in the front yard of their home, and their traditional Quaker hand-lettered wedding certificate hangs in the living room. She and Francis were mainstays of Rochester Meeting, They taught First-day school, were strong song leaders during the hymn singing at rise of meeting, and led Dances of Universal Peace in Rochester and at wider Quaker circles, including Friends General Conference Gatherings. Their love of music led to singing for hospice patients, Early American shape-note singing, and drum circles. She kept a record of Friends’ song suggestions at meeting hymn singing, sharing it to honor the people and the songs. She threw kisses and smiles to everyone entering for meeting for worship. Many friends remember her vitality and spirit during her participation in yoga, Pilates, and Zumba dancing. She finished three marathons in her 60s, and not only walked “cheerfully over the earth” but also swam, ran, stretched, cycled, climbed, and danced. She sang in unison with that of God in everyone she met.
Colette is survived by her husband, Francis Gurtz; their six children, Kent Miller (Gail Kendall), Kimberly Miller, Kevin Miller (Julia Meeks), Jason Gurtz-Cayla (Fabienne), and Martha Geitl (Thomas); seven grandchildren; one brother, Steven Jackman (Jane); and many nieces, nephews, grandnieces, and grandnephews.