Remembering Aunt Em

Our Miller family gathered together this week. We met for the visitation and funeral of my aunt Em. We gathered for the same reason just last year, when my dad passed away. The family is once again a little smaller.

Emelene Miller graduation.

Emilene Miller graduation, 1942.

Emilene (nearly everyone called her Em) was one of my dad’s older sisters. There were eight siblings in their family–five sisters and three brothers. Now four of them remain.

Em passed away this past Monday, 28 October, and family and friends met Thursday to mourn her passing and celebrate her life.

Emilene Beatrice was the third child born to Carl and Gertrude (Brewster) Miller–their third daughter. My dad was the fourth born and was their first boy. Em and my dad were only a year apart in age.

My aunts and uncles have always been close. They enjoy getting together and reminiscing about the old days. They always have many stories to tell about their childhood.

I learned a few things about aunt Em’s childhood the past couple days. Em was the quiet one in the family. She did not play as many pranks or get in as much trouble as some of her siblings. Her sisters would say that the Miller girls were too busy working in the kitchen and around the house to get in trouble.

Emilene Miller

Emilene Miller

Em was smart. Her father taught her to read when she was very young and she was good in Latin in high school.

When Em was little she liked Shirley Temple. In fact, she wanted to be called Shirley and would do additional household chores if her siblings would call her Shirley.

Once her oldest sister was spinning around with her arms outstretched when she accidentally hit and knocked Em down. She knocked the wind out of Em and was afraid she had killed Em.

Emilene Miller confirmation, 1938, Zion Lutheran, Chatt.

Emilene Miller confirmation, 1938, Zion Lutheran, Chatt.

I knew Em all my life and she was one of the nicest people I have ever met. She always had a smile on her face and was always willing listen and to help anyone in need. Her son Ron described her as being generous,sharing, tenacious, and energetic. She was all of those things.

Em had a green thumb and always put out a vegetable garden and lots of flowers. She also grew a variety of herbs. She still tended her yard and garden into her 80s. Em was also a very good cook. She was known for her pie-making skills and was best known for her coconut cream pie. The Millers would all race to get a piece of her made-from-scratch coconut cream pie at our annual reunion. That pie has been a reunion staple as long as I can remember. Thanks to cousin Ellen, who has taken on the responsibility of making the coconut pie for the reunions, using Em’s recipe.

Aunt Em cutting her coconut cream pie. (2001 photo by Karen)

Aunt Em cutting her coconut cream pie. (2001 photo by Karen)

Aunt Em had been in failing health for several years. She moved from her life-long home into a facility this past spring. I saw Em last July. We visited her at the facility and she attended the Miller reunion the next day. She was doing well until she developed pneumonia a couple weeks ago and had to be hospitalized.

Em’s family recently sold her house. While sorting through her papers they found a large stack of old letters from my dad. He wrote them during the war and sent them to Em and her husband. Her children graciously gave the letters to me and they are truly a treasure.

I always wandered if my dad sent letters from Europe to the folks back home and if he did, what had happened to them. I am so grateful that aunt Em saved them and had them packed safely away. I have not had time to go through them yet but I plan to digitize and transcribe all of them. You will have the opportunity to read some of them in future posts.

Emilene Beatrice (Miller) Henkle, 9 March 1924-28 October 2013.

Rest in peace, Aunt Em. You will be missed.



    • Brian Brewster on November 1, 2013 at 8:37 pm
    • Reply

    Was not aware Em had died untill early this evening when Virginia called and told me. She was always so nice. Did not know she had sold the house. Did they have an auction.?

    1. There was no auction.

    • Waldo on November 2, 2013 at 11:34 am
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    Just struck by the drastic difference in the lifetime photographs of your Aunt as opposed to the other ancestors often shown (ie photos along the sides of screen for instance). While most of out ancestors saw small changes in thier world over their lifetimes, your Aunt was among the first generation to see massive changes. When she was born, many folks still got around with horses (though cars were becoming common), few had electricity and nearly everyone used an outhouse and carried water from a well. Flying, phoning, washing machines, etc. were yet to be developed. The changes that she saw, some of which are clearly revealed in her childhood and adult pictures. How she must have marveled at your computer skills and family documentation.

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