Shirley Fout Miller
Shirley Fout Miller was known for her impeccable style. She is wearing a hat purchased in London as a gift for her. (Submitted photo / August 25, 2012)
Their first date was on New Year’s Day 1951. They were married on March 30 of that same year.
The couple had two sons, Barrick and Blair, a daughter and six grandchildren.
Both sons graduated from St. James School, which then was an all-boys school. Holly graduated from Stuart Hall School in Staunton, Va.
It was while sketching drawings of St. James School in 1968 for the Washington County calendars that Shirley fell in love with the school and became an avid supporter.
Dick traveled during his career as a salesman. He worked for Jamison Door Co. in Hagerstown, and there were moves with other companies to Virginia, the Chicago area, Old Chatham, N.Y., and Columbus, Ohio.
When Dick got a job in Richmond, Va., he agreed to commute so they could live 50 miles away in Williamsburg, a dream of Shirley’s. She worked as a secretary in the press bureau for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, as well as for the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Collection.
Shirley also worked as a picture editor for Rand McNally in their textbook division in Chicago, and had a long career as a professional artist and interior designer.
The Millers returned to Hagerstown in the 1990s when Dick retired, settling into a home on Oak Hill Avenue that Shirley lovingly decorated.
The couple had been living at Emeritus Assisted Living on the east side of Hagerstown, where Dick still resides.
Before drug therapy was developed for TB, Shirley had an experimental surgery, plombage, Holly said. The insertion of lucite balls, the size of pingpong balls, into a cavity underneath the ribs collapsed the infected lung, allowing it to rest so the TB lesions could heal.
Holly said it was “gruesome” surgery that required Shirley to be awake so she could take breaths in between surgical cuts. Antibiotics eventually replaced this procedure, Holly said.
“My father said at night, you could actually hear the balls banging against each other,” said Holly, who added that chest X-rays on her mother caused quite a stir among the medical staff.
Years later, the surgical scars in Shirley’s back were visible when the family vacationed at the beach. Shirley explained the scars as where her angel wings had been, James said.
In between Shirley’s diagnoses of breast cancer in 2000 and 2005, James was diagnosed with cancer. He was a law student at the University of Virginia, and Shirley came down “and played chauffeur, cook, housekeeper” for him.
“She viewed this as a particular bond, that we both beat cancer,” James said.
Holly’s job took her and her two children to London for two years, while James was 15 and Kerry 13. Shirley was given the assignment to travel in advance of the move with the children to select a school for them, even though Shirley was not known for her navigational skills.
“She couldn’t get her way out of a paper bag,” James said.
Even among the well dressed in London, Shirley drew compliments.
“She was fantastically elegantly dressed, while we were schlubbing along,” James said.
James completed his undergraduate studies at Oxford University and for graduation, received only three tickets. Each of his parents got a ticket, and as he considered which Miller grandparent to give the other ticket to, he knew Shirley was the one who would appreciate the “pomp and circumstance,” as well as the architecture of the Sheldonian Theatre, commissioned by Christopher Wren.
James watched as Dick smoked his pipe outside the theater, chatting with the janitor. Before long, the janitor opened the side door and snuck Dick inside for the graduation ceremony.
“She was prim and proper, very elegant. He was a salesman, a schmoozer,” James said. “Together, they were quite a couple.”
Shirley’s favorite sayings were “My cup runneth over” or “Oh Dick,” her exasperation with her husband reflected in the intonation of the two words.
“She was just an almost unfailingly sweet, unfailingly kind and unfailingly sociable person,” James said. “As far as I can tell, she was universally loved.
“The number of people that came up to us this weekend and said she was a second mom — I lost count.”
Editor’s note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail runs “A Life Remembered.” Each story in this continuing series takes a look back — through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others — at a member of the community who died recently. Today’s “A Life Remembered” is about Shirley Fout Miller, who died Aug. 16 at the age of 86. Her obituary was published in the Aug. 19 edition of The Herald-Mail.