‘Mother Miller’ commanded respect as police officer
With the death Wednesday of Betty May Miller, 74, of Grass Valley, the community lost a woman who had “apple pie American values,” was one of California’s first police women and even helped break up a Soviet spy ring.
Mrs. Miller’s daughter, Kathryn Ann Miller Marshall, said when her mother worked as a police officer in Beverly Hills, she was known as “Mother Miller” by prisoners and police officers alike.
“Police have a colorful language, but they knew better than to use language like that around her. They would not allow for prisoners to speak like that in her presence.”
She said sometimes “rough and tough criminals were mouthing off to the world when they were being booked. The officers said they could not speak in that manner because they were in the presence of a lady,” she said, adding that her mother always made people behave better.
Marshall said she and her brother, John Lawrence Miller, were raised by her mother after their father left when Marshall was in kindergarten.
“When she wasn’t home, she was still home because of the police department. They were our family,” she said, explaining that her home would get nightly checks from police officers to make sure everything was OK when her mother was working.
Mrs. Miller received commendations from the Beverly Hills Police Department for exceptional police work in connection with locating a missing juvenile and detecting a Soviet spy ring. Marshall said that while her mother was always humble about her work and would have never considered the detection of a spy ring as anything “extraordinary,” it is a story that their family is proud of.
She said her mother was working in the records department at the Beverly Hills Police Department during a major event in Los Angeles and the Cold War era. She was responsible for giving permits to taxi drivers and noticed that several people were coming in with backgrounds that were not typical for taxi drivers. They had Russian accents and unusual professions, such as a professor of physics.
“When they would come in, she would fingerprint them and get their records cleared. She just felt there was something going on and she began to collect information.” Eventually, the FBI was contacted and they broke up a Soviet spy ring that was allegedly planning something devastating to the city of Los Angeles.
“She would consider herself the most ordinary of women. She was so quiet and no one would ever guess what she had done,” Marshall said.
She said her mother became a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1970. She was active both as Stake Relief Society Secretary and in other positions in the Grass Valley Ward and its relief society.
She could always be found sewing quilts for people who had lived through disasters throughout the world and loved to help people, especially family members.
Marshall said she remembered how her mother loved to drive around the country in her Winnebago, or “The Winny.” She would go visit her son, John Lawrence Miller, and grandson, Benjamin, in Oregon, at least once a year.
“Here is this lady who is 74 years old and she thought nothing of hopping in The Winny and going off to wherever so she could go take care of a relative,” her daughter said.
Marshall said some of her fondest memories were when she, her daughter Margaret, and her mother would go on educational vacations during a year when Margaret was being home schooled.
“We were a threesome. Gram and Margaret and I. Just us three girls. We went to Olympic National Park to study the rain forest. We were museum-aholics. We loved learning,” she said.
Marshall said her mother did not get to finish much college herself but that education was very important to her. “My bother is an architect. I am a psychologist, and (my mother) is very much responsible for that.”
Visitation for family and friends of Mrs. Miller of Grass Valley will be at 9:30 a.m. Monday at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 615 Hollow Way in Nevada City, services will follow at 10:30 a.m. at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Nevada City. Private interment will be in La Jolla.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, or the American Heart Association.
Arrangements are under the direction of Hooper and Weaver Mortuary.
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