Gloria Hunt Miller, 92, of Camden, the longtime owner of the Carl Miller Funeral Home, an unflagging advocate for the city’s needy and underserved, and a pillar of her church, died in her sleep Saturday, Aug. 21, at home.
The cause of death was not yet made public, her family said, but she suffered a stroke a few years ago and had a recent history of congestive heart failure.
A graduate of Chester High School and Cheyney State Teachers College, Mrs. Miller intended to become an elementary school teacher. Her appreciation of education and love of children, she told her family later, made that decision clear.
But she met Carl Miller Jr. at a Cheyney football game in 1950. They married that year, and she joined him as co-owner of his Carl Miller Funeral Home, which is billed now as the oldest Black-owned mortuary in the country.
Despite her change of career plans, Mrs. Miller did not deviate from her desire to effect change in Camden. She dived headlong into activities that touched the lives of her neighbors and friends, and became known to many as the “mother of Camden.”
“She really was the mother of her community,” said her granddaughter Alexis Combs. “She had this firm belief in service, and she served wherever she could.”
Mrs. Miller’s daughter, Pamela Miller Dabney, said, “She was a mother figure to those who needed one.”
To that end, Mrs. Miller was a lifetime member of the Camden City School District parent-teacher association, participating in school-related projects long after her own children had graduated. She helped create the first library at Charles Sumner Elementary School.
She was a founding board member of the city’s Boys and Girls Club, active at the local YMCA, and a member of several social service clubs, including the Atlantic City chapter of the Links Inc., an educational, civic, and intercultural organization “committed to enriching, sustaining and ensuring the culture and economic survival of African Americans and other persons of African ancestry.”
“Everything she did was civic-oriented,” her daughter said. “She was always about furthering your education. She always said, ‘Get a skill, get a job.’”
“She definitely was an awesome lady of service, showing love and caring at difficult times,” said one of many tributes to Mrs. Miller on Facebook.
At the First Nazarene Baptist Church, Mrs. Miller served on the hospitality committee and attended every service she could. She was a member of the National Funeral Directors Association, and her daughter and granddaughter, both funeral directors at the Carl Miller Funeral Home, have extended the family participation in the company to six generations.
During her ownership. Mrs. Miller often charged families in need little or no fees for funerals. She retired from active duty at the funeral home about six years ago.
Born Nov. 20, 1928, Mrs. Miller liked to read, solve word-search puzzles with her grandchildren, and cook. Her blueberry cobbler and pineapple upside-down cake are legendary among the family.
As an adviser, she was all business. If she thought you were wrong about something important, she told you. She also was quick to praise. She told her children and grandchildren that hearing about her experiences could help them navigate the uncertainties of their own lives.
“It all came from a place of love,” her granddaughter said. “She had the gift to give it to you straight, and, because of her love, you received it in a positive manner.”
In addition to her daughter and granddaughter, Mrs. Miller is survived by six other grandchildren, 16 great-grandchildren, one great-great-grandchild, and other relatives. Her husband, Carl, son Craig, daughter Carol, and three brothers died earlier.
Viewings are scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 4, from noon to 7 p.m. at the Carl Miller Funeral Home, 831 Carl Miller Blvd., Camden, N.J. 08104, and Sunday, Sept. 5, from 3 to 6 p.m. at First Nazarene Baptist Church, 1500 S. Eighth St., Camden, N.J. 08104. A church service is to follow Sept. 5 at 6 p.m. Private burial is to be Tuesday, Sept. 7, at Harleigh Cemetery in Camden.
Donations in her name may be made to Cheyney University, 1837 University Circle, Cheyney, Pa. 19319, and JDF, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, 200 Vesey St., 28th Floor, New York, N.Y. 10281.