Mildred Bland “Milly” Miller is 100 years young. Born July 14, 1917, Milly’s eyes still sparkle when she speaks of three things: her late husband, Woody; her best friend, Hope; and her days in Tri Delta. Initiated in 1937 into Tri Delta’s Alpha Pi Chapter at the University of Maryland, Milly has lived a life full of love and laughter.
When asked for advice on living a long and happy life, she answers simply, “Choose happiness. Happiness is good.”
And then almost immediately, she quips, “And it helps to have good genes!” Milly Miller does not miss a beat…
Milly & Maryland
“I was not a student,” says Milly. “But my family insisted I get an education, so there I was at the University of Maryland.” Milly recalls visiting Maryland for the first time with her “Aunt Piggy,” a school teacher. This was at the request of Milly’s “Uncle Jim,” a D.C.-based businessman who ensured his nieces and nephews were educated in the absence of their fathers.
Milly’s father served in World War I and was stationed in France. He returned home when Milly was 10 years old, but he was not well. The war had taken a toll on him mentally and physically. Following some time in a transitional living facility, Milly’s father died, leaving Milly’s mother to work full time to support Milly and her siblings, Gene and Madge.
“My mother was a very hard worker. She taught me a lot about life and choice and perseverance.”
Milly needed all of those skills at Maryland, plus a good pair of shoes. “Thank God for saddle shoes,” says Milly of her days traversing the Maryland campus. “The campus was very country-ish back then, with dirt paths to the classrooms. My saddle shoes got me through it – along with Tri Delta.”
Though Tri Delta wasn’t Milly’s first stop at Maryland. “I accepted an invitation to join Kappa Delta my freshman year,” says Milly. “I’d met a couple of KDs in my home economics classes before rush and really liked them, but in my heart, I was always a Tri Delta.”
Tri Delta extended a bid to Milly and her cousin, Hope, the following year. “Hope and I had met previously, through Uncle Jim. At Maryland, we became roommates and best of friends.” That friendship has lasted a lifetime… Hope and Milly still talk several times each week.
“Hope and I had a wonderful time together at Maryland, especially living in the Tri Delta house,” Milly recalls.
“Our house mother, Mrs. Franklin, was very Southern and very proper. She insisted on good manners and commanded a lot of respect. There were no shenanigans in the Tri Delta house!”
Milly vividly remembers being called out by Mrs. Franklin while living on the top floor of the house. “She’d say, ‘Mildred Bland, I can hear you all the way down here in my room.’ Mrs. Franklin lived on the first floor! I was very talkative…”
Milly graduated from the University of Maryland in 1940 with a Bachelor of Science degree in home economics/home science.
Milly & Woody
“Woody was one of a kind. He was a character, and he never met a stranger! He was also a very good businessman. I think his personality is what helped him be successful,” sparkles Milly.
Woodrow “Woody” Miller was one of five children. His family lived outside of Washington, D.C., and attended church with the Bland family in the city. Woody and Milly first met in Sunday school at Epworth Methodist Church near Capitol Hill when Milly was just 10 years old. “I knew Woody my whole life,” says Milly.
Woody served in the Navy following high school and was stationed in Dutch Harbor, Alabama. Following his service, he attended George Washington University in D.C. where he was a Sigma Alpha Epsilon. His brother, Eddie, a Phi Delta Theta, attended Maryland on a track scholarship and Woody frequently visited Eddie at school. While he was there, Woody made it a point to see Milly.
“He used to come up for a haircut. He drove all the way to College Park for a haircut, like he couldn’t get one in D.C.! I guess I knew something was up then,” smiles Milly.
Milly returned home to D.C. after graduating in 1940. She and Woody began dating and often double-dated with Woody’s best friend Neal and his wife, Lucy. Milly recalls, “One night Lucy said, ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if you and Woody got married? You’d be Milly Miller!’ I guess Woody thought that had a nice ring to it!”
Milly and Woody married in October 1941, and were happily married for 50 years before Woody passed away in 1991. And, while Woody and Milly never had children, they have cared for many of their nieces and nephews, in the same way Milly’s Uncle Jim had cared for her.
Milly & Hope
Cousins and friends, Milly and Hope have enjoyed a lifetime of friendship and Tri Delta sisterhood for more than 80 years. Following college, Hope married Tommy and moved to Florida, where they made their lives until Tommy passed away. As sisters and widows, Milly and Hope have thoroughly enjoyed each others’ company.
“We always read The Trident together,” says Milly. “After Hope moved to Florida, she stopped receiving The Trident. So I would read mine — cover to cover — and then I’d send it to her and we’d talk on the phone and discuss all of the articles. Now she receives her own copy, so we can talk about it as soon as it arrives. I didn’t tell her I was going to be on the cover. Just wait until she gets this issue!”*
Milly continues, “For years, Hope would visit Maryland each summer, and sometimes I would ride back to Florida with her. We had a ball! We’d hit all of these outlet malls along the way. I had no idea outlet malls even existed! But Hope knew everything, and we shopped our hearts out!” Milly says.
Recently, Hope who celebrated her 97th birthday on July 20 (a week after Milly’s), made the decision to return to Maryland to be near family. “I can’t wait to see her,” says Milly. “I’m just glad Mrs. Franklin won’t be here to tell us to quiet down!”
Milly makes her home at Grand Oaks — a lovely assisted living facility adjacent to Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C. Several spaces in Sibley Memorial Hospital and Grand Oaks bear the names of Woodrow and Mildred Bland Miller, generous philanthropists.
Indeed, there’s something about Milly…living, learning and laughing in the spirit of Tri Delta.
*Editor’s Note: Representatives of the Tri Delta Foundation visited Milly in the spring of 2015. When they found out Hope wasn’t receiving The Trident, they arranged for a subscription to be sent to her from Milly, a generous Foundation donor.