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updated: Aug 12, 2012, 9:05 AM
By Montgomery Miller
Juanita Miller was born Juanita Marie Currie on May 3, 1924 in an east Texas logging
town called Fastrill-now considered to be one of Texas' original ghost towns. Her
father, Melvin Currie, was a locomotive engineer for Temple Industries hauling
lumber from the camp. His train, Engine #13, is now the centerpiece of the History
Center in Diboll, Texas. Juanita attended high school in Rusk where she excelled
academically and was a baton twirler. Her parents, Melvin and Ruth Currie, spent
the remainder of their lives in Diboll. Juanita's Texas roots ran deep.
After graduating from Louisiana Tech University, she moved to Houston to work as
an executive secretary for the President of the Gulf Oil Corporation's Houston office.
Juanita Currie became Juanita Miller when she married JP Miller, in the late 1940s.
JP Miller aspired to become a writer and they moved to Queens, New York where
she supported his dream by working as a secretary for the President of Gulf Oil's
New York office. JP became a successful television writer authoring numerous live
dramas including the unforgettable Days of Wine and Roses for Playhouse 90. In the
blink of an eye, Juanita Miller, a red-headed country girl from an east Texas logging
camp found herself living in upscale Manhasset, Long Island where she was thrust
into the glitzy life of television and film producers, movie stars, fancy restaurants,
cocktail parties and world travel. Famous people had little effect on Juanita but she
once had dinner with Clark Gable and thought he was really something special.
The Manhasset years were filled with school plays, PBC football, Cub Scout meetings
and occasional summer days at Jones Beach. Following their divorce in 1964
Juanita continued raising their three boys and, after meeting Dr. Henry Viscardi Jr.,
a 1980 inductee into the Good Shepherd Handicapped Hall of Fame and founder
of the Human Resources Center on Long Island, N.Y., volunteered to work with
handicapped children at the famous center. She later enrolled at CW Post College
where she graduated with Honors earning a Masters Degree in English Literature.
Soon thereafter she found a job as a high school English teacher at Great Neck South
In 1978, Juanita decided to move back to Texas to be closer to her mother Ruth
Currie, still living in Diboll at the time, and sisters Janice (of Houston) and Lorraine
(of Livingston). She purchased a small lot on the imaginary shoreline of what would
later become Lake Livingston and hired her sister Lorraine's husband to build her a
She immediately embraced the local community of Livingston, joining the local
golf club and eventually landing a job as an English teacher at Livingston High
School. She taught at Livingston for 17 years and was active in the Ladies Art
League, local politics and community events. She loved fishing, attending local
football games and playing a good game of bridge with her many friends. Music
of almost any kind made her smile, especially if it was Willie Nelson, and until
a few months ago she could Jitterbug or do the Lindy Hop like it was 1941. She
loved teaching young people and providing them with the tools to succeed in life.
Some of her former students are now prominent business and civic leaders in the
Livingston area. She also loved books, writing poetry and believed in the power of
education. She enjoyed wildlife and nature, sunsets on the lake, flowers and wild
birds, and was eternally mystified by modern technology. She loved America and
had a deep abiding respect for our Constitution and the many freedoms that we
enjoy. She loved her community and always enjoyed a good conversation with her
friends, neighbors and colleagues. She baked wonderful cookies, loved fried shrimp
and gulf oysters, and often enjoyed a second piece of pecan pie. She sometimes
described herself as a chocoholic. But above all, she loved her cats. She even had an
embroidered pillow on her couch proclaiming, "This house is ruled by the cat" and it
Juanita enjoyed little road trips with friends to various Texas destinations
expressing a particular fondness for New Braunfels, a quaint enclave founded in
1845 by a group of German settlers and located deep in the heart of the Texas Hill
country. Over the years Juanita also developed a great affection for Santa Barbara
and made frequent visits to the historic coastal city in California where one of her
sons has resided since 1974. In the early 1990s she retired from teaching full time
although she continued substitute teaching until 1997 when she was diagnosed with
colon cancer. After successful surgery and subsequent chemotherapy she recovered
and remained cancer-free for the remainder of her life.
Juanita joined the angels peacefully at the age of 88 at the Pine Ridge Health Care
facility in Livingston after a long and valiant struggle with Alzheimer's disease. She
is survived by her sister Janice Vaughn of Houston, and sons Montgomery, Jack and
Jace, all currently residing in California.
A Celebration of Life service will be held at 1pm on Saturday, August 25 at the
Cochran Funeral Home Chapel in Livingston.
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