‘Her World Was Family’

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In this 1923 photo, Goldie Miller and her brother, Abe Kirson, stand proudly in the doorway of Kirson’s Pharmacy.
In this 1923 photo, Goldie Miller and her brother, Abe Kirson, stand proudly in the doorway of Kirson’s Pharmacy.

Goldie Miller, a devoted wife and mother, and a rare super-centenarian, passed away of heart failure at 111 on Oct. 16 in her daughter’s Pikesville home.

Miller was born in Baltimore on April 25, 1903, the second of seven children — three boys and four girls — of Sam Kirson, a property manager, and Anna Kirson, a homemaker. The family resided near Mondawmin.


The world was starkly different then, as Miller’s granddaughter Beth Sellman described in her eulogy. Teddy Roosevelt was in the White House, the Wright Brothers took their first flight, and gas-lit lamps lined the streets of American cities.

Despite the vast history she was witness to, Miller was not one to dwell on the past, though when prompted, she would share memories of a bygone era, recalled her daughter, Natalie Wilder, 85.

“She would say there was no such thing as a car,” said Wilder. “They used to go on Sunday to get their carriage — they didn’t have a horse, but they had a carriage — so they would get a horse and that was how Sundays were spent, with your horse and buggy.”

Miller graduated from a Baltimore high school, although which one is unknown due to a fire that destroyed her school records.

She worked in Hutzler’s department store on the wrapping desk after graduation before meeting Dr. Benjamin Miller on a blind date. The two married in 1924 and settled on Wilkens Avenue in two next-door houses, one for living and the other serving as her husband’s medical office. Miller worked as a nurse-secretary in her husband’s practice.

“She loved working with my father in his office. She loved being a part of his life,” said Wilder. “She was very attentive to his patients.”

Dr. Miller, described as a “wonderful doctor” by Wilder, passed away in 1958.

Following her husband’s death, Miller volunteered for a time in the gift shop of Sinai Hospital, where her daughter worked as a nurse. By 1979 she was working in another Miller’s medical office, this time for her son, Dr. Gerald A. Miller, a now-retired ophthalmologist. She served as her son’s secretary until 1990.

“Her world was family,” said Wilder. “Family came first before everything. My father, myself and my brother, her mother — they were the most important things in the world to her.”

After family, a strong work ethic was most important to Miller, and she had a good head for business.

“She was very business savvy. She was not a spender. She always said, ‘Don’t spend what you don’t have.’ She could probably balance the budget in our country,” said Sellman.

Though a dominant individual when it came to her family and work, she was passive when it came to her age. She merely accepted it rather than viewing it as something to be made a fuss over, according to her daughter, though her age was notable, as there is thought to be only 60 people in the United States older than 110.

“We never really talked about, ‘Oh, you’re 111. Keep it up.’ We never made age a priority,” said Wilder. “It’s funny, my granddaughter — that would be her great-granddaughter — she’d tease her bubbie and say, ‘Did you know Moses?’”

In honor of her 111th birthday, Griswold Home Care, an agency that assisted with Miller’s care, arranged for Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz to declare April 25, 2014 “Goldie Miller Day.” Gov. Martin J. O’Malley sent a citation, too.

What was the secret to Goldie’s extraordinary longevity? Medical professionals might point to the fact that she never smoke and she never drank. Wilder believes it was the love and attention with which her mother was surrounded. Miller lived in her daughter’s home for 47 years and was visited daily by her son.

Wilder described her mother as “alert and oriented to the very end.” She read The Wall Street Journal daily, watched Lawrence Welk and the news and enjoyed a daily helping of mashed potatoes.

“She wanted to live,” said Wilder. “She would talk about what the kids were doing and the grandchildren. We would share everything with her. I think really that’s why she lived — the fact that she was right here with us and was important in our lives and she knew that. I think that was the reason for her longevity.”

Miller is survived by her children, Dr. Gerald A. and Lillian Miller, and daughter Natalie Wilder. She leaves behind 10 grandchildren and several great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren. Miller was predeceased by her son-in-law, Ervin Wilder of Pikesville, and two grandsons, Mark and Stewart Wilder.

Graveside services were held Oct. 19 at Beth Tfiloh Cemetery. Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg officiated.

mapter@jewishtimes.com

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