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Published: Friday, 9/5/2014

Freddie Mae Miller: 1928-2014; Transfusion expert a trailblazer at MCO

BY MARK ZABORNEY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
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Freddie Mae Miller, a pioneer in her field at the former Maumee Valley Hospital and the former Medical College of Ohio, died Saturday in Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center. She was 86.

She died of kidney failure, her daughter, Patricia, said.

Mrs. Miller retired in 1984 from MCO. She was hired in 1950 to work in what was then the blood bank department of its predecessor, Maumee Valley Hospital. For much of her career, she was the only African-American professional in her department. In the early years especially, “she met with a lot of prejudice,” her daughter said. “My mother was always the bigger person.”

Dr. Amira Gohara, a professor and dean emerita at the University of Toledo medical school, the former MCO, said: “She was held in very high esteem. She was very well respected by her peers in transfusion medicine around the city of Toledo.”

“She was a very professional, dignified lady and very knowledgeable in her field, which was transfusion medicine,” said Dr. Gohara, who remained a close friend. “In fact, she trained many of the currently practicing pathologists in town in transfusion medicine, including myself.”

Notable was her “willingness to share her knowledge with others to ensure our patients got safe blood,” said Dr. Gohara, who was an interim MCO president.

Mrs. Miller, with Dr. Peter Lao, who directed blood services at the American Red Cross in Toledo and taught at MCO, helped develop a method for separating blood so that patients in need would get only red blood cells, and not plasma, which can contain harmful antibodies, Dr. Gohara said.

She was born Jan. 21, 1928, to Gladys and Robert Lancaster in Water Valley, Ala. She was a graduate of Philip Schuyler High School in Albany, N.Y., where she’d moved to live with a grandmother. She received a degree in chemistry from LeMoyne College in Memphis as she worked to pay for her education.

“My mother was always driven to excel,” her daughter said.

She married Vernon Page, and the couple moved to Toledo in 1949 but later divorced, Patricia said.

Mrs. Miller was a longtime member of Grace Presbyterian Church. She and her husband, William “Herman” Miller, and several other couples took regular golf outings and visited the Kentucky Derby.

“It was fun to even watch her attempt to play,” said her friend, Delores Penn. “She was a lady of class. She was very smart and a hard worker, and a delightful person to be around, and told the most fantastic stories of her life.”

She and Mr. Miller married in 1979. He died in 1985.

Surviving are her daughters, Sharon Beatty and Patricia Page; sister, Johnella Norwood; five grandchildren; 11 great-grandchildren, and two great-great-grandchildren.

Visitation will be 6-8 p.m. today in the Dale-Riggs Funeral Home Chapel. Funeral services will be noon Saturday in Grace Presbyterian Church, where a wake will begin at 11 a.m.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.


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