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Published: Saturday, 2/23/2002

TPS educator `wanted to keep moving'

Helen Gunn Williams Miller, 84, a teacher and counselor in the Toledo Public Schools who was among educators who became one of the first groups to tour China in the 1970s after President Nixon's landmark visit, died Feb. 9 in a Newport Beach, Calif.-area skilled-nursing facility.

She had a stroke the day before her death, her son, Larry G. Williams, said. She had Alzheimer's disease for nine years.

Mrs. Williams Miller retired in the late 1970s from a career in the Toledo schools that began in the late 1950s as a sociology teacher at the former DeVilbiss High School.

She received a master's degree in counseling from the University of Toledo, where she had received bachelor's degrees in English and education. She then became a counselor, with assignments at Woodward and Bowsher high schools and, at retirement, Jones Junior High School.

“She enjoyed the classroom and teaching, but she wanted to keep moving. It was her nature,” her son said. “She wanted to keep progressing through the paths of life.”

Students found appeal in her high standards and ideals - and her high expectations, noted her son, who was a teacher at Jones as she ended her career.

Her daughter, Carol Feiock, said: “She was such a strong woman. She was so comfortable with being a strong woman.”

Mrs. Williams Miller toured the Soviet Union in 1972. She was selected in February, 1976, to join 23 educators in a tour of China's schools, communes, and factories - less than four years after President Nixon's visit thawed relations with the nation.

“People [in China] would stop on the streets and stare at them,” her son said.

Flu sent her to a Chinese hospital, where she was treated with herbal remedies. But her sense of adventure wasn't shaken, whatever the travel experience - civil unrest in India; bumpy rides across the savanna in Africa.

“She was sure things were going to turn out,” her son said.

Mrs. Williams Miller was a graduate of Libbey High School.

She and her first husband, Richard Erie Williams, married June 27, 1941. He died Aug. 2, 1976.

She moved in retirement to Venice, Fla., and, by chance, met a former UT classmate, Ralph A. Miller. They married Sept. 4, 1982. He died July 25, 1999.

Surviving are her daughter, Carol W. Feiock; son, Larry G. Williams; four grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

Memorial services will be at 4:30 p.m. Monday in the J. Jeffrey Fretti Mortuary, where the family will greet friends from 5 to 7 p.m. tomorrow and after 2 p.m. Monday.

The family requests tributes to the Alzheimer's Association, YMCA Storer Camps, or a charity of the donor's choice.

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