Marilyn (Lynn) Barnes Miller died May 7, 2019 as a result of complications from Alzheimer’s disease. Born July 26, 1943 in Waterbury, Connecticut to Ruth (Fuller) Barnes and Elmer (Barney) Barnes, Lynn was the oldest of three children. She spent much of her childhood on Leetes Island, where her feet grew rough from running outside and where her children and grandchildren would later learn to clam by walking barefoot through the mud at low tide, just as she had. After earning her bachelor’s degree at Cornell University and a master of science in education from the University of Pennsylvania, Lynn taught in Newton, Massachusetts before earning a master of arts in religion at Yale University, where she met her husband. She later earned a doctorate in education from the University of Pennsylvania and devoted over thirty years to working as a teacher and school administrator.
As a young woman, Lynn was a true free spirit, occasionally skipping school to catch a Metro North train to visit New York City museums, traveling alone to Japan and across Europe in a VW bug in the mid-1960s, pursuing a graduate degree in divinity so she could learn more about God, and devoting a room at home to an enormous loom to weave fabric. A voracious reader and gardener, she always had a book in hand, and loved daffodils and peonies to a fault. She was barefoot in the garden when she first went into labor one spring day—sparking laughter from the labor and delivery nurses who were surprised by her muddy feet. She was happiest in the water, logging hours swimming breaststroke laps in the local college pool without ever once getting her hair wet. Lynn was a relentlessly positive force, so famous for her optimistic spin on everything that her kids created a game out of it called “What Would Mom Say?” To play the game, one person had to express bad news, and the other had to respond with whatever “mom would say.” For example, a child might call to say “Mom, I had an accident and broke my leg,” and Lynn would cheerfully reply, “Well, at least you have insurance!”
Above all else, though, Lynn loved children. She was a fierce proponent of student learning, equity and teacher quality and spent most of her later career as an assistant superintendent for curriculum. Under Lynn’s guidance, Pennsylvania’s Palisades school district became a nationally-recognized Blue Ribbon” district, regularly hosting educators from across the country who came to learn strategies for improvement in their own schools. Lynn was a devoted wife and mother to three children, who gave her much too hard of a time in their adolescence. She traveled across the country dozens of times to visit every college and grad school hovel they lived in, explaining that she could not relax until she could picture where each of them was sleeping. She weathered all the trials they offered with patience and complete faith that they would eventually become the kind, loving human beings she had raised. They will spend the rest of their lives trying. She met the challenge of Alzheimer’s with characteristic grace and stoicism, fighting the good fight in the early years with thousands of post-it-note reminders, and consistently finding joy in everyday moments, especially with her grandchildren, who were the brightest light in her final years. The last sentence Lynn said was “I love you, too.”
Lynn is survived by her devoted husband of 50 years, the Reverend Dr. Gary Miller, her brother Richard (Dick) Barnes (Theresa), son Jonathan Miller (Loretta), daughter Cynthia Miller Idriss (Shamil), daughter Zee Miller Smith (Milas), grandchildren Jackson, Aniset, Nura, and Makayla, and by dozens of extended family and lifelong friends. She was predeceased by her younger brother, Robert.
A Celebration of life will be held June 9, 2:00 p.m. at College Hill Presbyterian Church, 501 Brodhead St., Easton PA 18042.