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Ella May Miller, speaker on Heart to Heart, dies at age 93

Mennonite Media Staff - 10/30/08

Mennonite Mission Network


For 18 years, Ella May Weaver Miller's voice flowed over the airwaves, touching listeners of the Mennonite radio program Heart to Heart.

Miller, 93, died Sunday, Oct. 26, 2008, in Harrisonburg, Va., following an extended illness.

Eastern Mennonite Seminary’s School for Leadership Training in Harrisonburg honored Miller in 2007 at its annual Church Leadership Appreciation Banquet. for her contribution to the far reaching ministry.

From 1958-1976, Miller was the speaker on Heart to Heart, a 15-minute weekly and 5-minute daily program that at its height aired on more than 250 stations. The program, produced by Mennonite Media, a department of Mennonite Mission Network, spawned more than 200 Heart to Heart local fellowships—gatherings of listeners who discussed the programs.

Miller also wrote nine books, which had sold 734,694 copies when record-keeping stopped in 1975. (Most of her titles still are available as used books through online retailers.)

As recently as five days before she died, Mennonite Media, which still receives mail occasionally addressed to Heart to Heart, received a $2 order from a woman in North Hollywood, Calif. The letter-writer wished to purchase copies of Ella May’s Heart to Heart radio talks in leaflet form. The order form mailed was more than 35 years old.

Over the years, 28,000 people subscribed to a monthly Heart to Heart newsletter and 11,000 subscribed to the weekly leaflets. During 1971, Miller received 35,894 letters, according to the history book Mennonite Broadcasts: The First 25 Years, (still available from Mennonite Media.)

Miller was born May 22, 1915, in Harper, Kan., to Reuben M. and Ella Neuhauser Weaver. She was the ninth child in a family of 16. Her mother died when she was 10 years old.

After her graduation from Hesston Academy, she helped at the Kansas City Mission for two years. During this time she lived with the mission superintendent and wife, J.D. and Hettie Minninger, who became her mentors. Miller graduated from Goshen (Ind.) College in 1941.

She married a classmate, Samuel E. Miller, from Middletown, Pa., June 10, 1941. He died April 1, 1985. The Millers were missionaries in Argentina for 11 years through Mennonite Board of Missions, a predecessor agency of Mennonite Mission Network.

In 1953, they moved to Harrisonburg, where her husband began teaching Spanish at Eastern Mennonite College (now Eastern Mennonite University) and serving as pastor of Mount Clinton Mennonite Church. Upon his retirement from EMC, they served several years as resource persons to Mexican churches under Franconia Mission Board.

The Millers became members of Park View Mennonite Church, Harrisonburg, after Samuel Miller retired from the ministry. In her later years she served as Spanish interpreter for mothers who needed medical and legal services. In 2001, she moved to Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community.

Ella May Miller is survived by three sons and a daughter, all born in Argentina: S. Ernest (Marilyn) Miller of St. Paul, Minn., John (Barbara) Miller, Martin (Karen) Miller, and Jeanne (Roger) Troyer, all of Harrisonburg. Roger Troyer died in 2000. Also surviving are 12 grandchildren, six great-grandchildren; a brother, Dale Weaver of Hutchinson, Kan.; and four sisters, Alta Fry of Elk Falls, Kan., Anna Ruth Beck of Hesston, Kan., Mary Shue of Harper, Kan., and Wanda Good of Harrisonburg.

Funeral services were held at Park View Mennonite Church on Oct. 29. Ministers officiating were a nephew, Terry Shue, Barbara Moyers Lehman and Phil Kniss .

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Franconia Conference for the work with Mexican churches, 771 Roude St. #113, Souderton, PA, 18964; or the Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community Compassion Fund, 1481 Virginia Ave., Harrisonburg, VA 22802.

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