Date of Birth: September 8, 1921
Date of Death: n/a
Place of Birth: Fort Wayne, Indiana
WWII nurse and lifelong peace activist
During Annetta Miller's 97 years, she has accomplished more than six or seven women – and her life's work has been in multiple areas.
Born Annetta Thelma Klein on September 8, 1921 in Fort Wayne, Indiana, she watched her parents work in their store, Klein's Furniture. The retail business was a natural -- Annetta's grandparents had owned a store in New York City. But World War II raged in 1943 and Annetta had her degree from Jewish Hospital Association of Philadelphia, so she enlisted in the United States Army Nurse Corps where she served from 1944-45.
"There was a great need for trained people," she states.
Serving in Europe was difficult. Even arriving in England on the Aquitania was imperiled by the many German submarines. Her stories include a harrowing event in England when there was so much snow, she and her "tent mates" had to be dug out by the patients. Annetta never worried, however, saying, "I assumed I was going to live."
Most of Annetta's friends and classmates had married, her mother was concerned, but Annetta showed early signs of a passion to do what needed to be done, no matter the challenges. She did not feel it was necessary to travel the "usual route." In spite of the difficult conditions, it was in England that Annetta met Sidney Miller, a doctor who was also serving in the military.
At the end of the war, Annetta and Sidney married and returned to his home in Dearborn, Michigan, where Sidney's parents owned a dry cleaning store. The Millers had three sons, Ron, Fred and Mark. The family moved from Dearborn to Huntington Woods to be closer to the Jewish community.
When the Vietnam War began, the Miller family joined the peace movement and attended protests. Annetta and Sidney had seen war conditions personally and the Vietnam War made no sense to them.
In the 1960s, Annetta ran as a Democrat against Congressman William Broomfield, but she was defeated in the primary. By this time, Annetta had developed a passion for art and travel. In the late 1960s, she ran for the State Board of Education and won. She served twenty-four years -- three eight-year terms. She and Sidney went on many education missions, one month-long trip to China during the Cultural Revolution was particularly enlightening. They traveled with the US/China Friendship Society. Annetta combined her love of art and education by bringing art works by elementary children in Michigan to China and returning from China with art from Chinese students. She toured Indian archeological sites in the Southwest of the United States, went to Peru, and traveled twice to the former Soviet Union.
When told she had incredible life experiences, her modest response was, "Everyone has an interesting life."
On the school board, Annetta promoted vocational education, health education and health services in Michigan schools and she was a strong supporter of public education and the importance of teachers.
In 1995, at the age of 74, she earned her BA in art history from Wayne State University and served on the WSU Board of Governors from 1997-2012. Her love of art is apparent in her Huntington Woods home which is filled with an extensive art collection.
Her close friends from the State Board of Education and public service were her influences and she was theirs: Kathleen Strauss, Detroit City Council President Maryann Mahaffey, and Supreme Court Justice Marilyn Kelly.
While on the school board, she was invited to travel on the March of the Living to visit Auschwitz in Poland and then Israel. Annetta was profoundly affected by the travel to remote parts of the world. She has been passionate about learning other cultures and about understanding people in all parts of the world, in order to transmit her concern for world peace and promote justice.
Submitted by: Jeannie Weiner and Aimee Ergas