Obituary : Helen V. Miller
Helen Virginia Hartnett Miller died on April 19 at the Martha's Vineyard Hospital; she was 89. A long-time resident of Chappaquiddick Island, she first visited the Vineyard in 1946, and returned a year later for her honeymoon.
The third child of James T. Hartnett and Helen L. Barry, and the last surviving of their six children, Helen was born in Peabody in 1919. She attended local public schools and then Salem Teacher's College before transferring to Simmons College, where she studied nursing and worked for the Community Health Association; she interrupted her education to join the Army Air Corps, graduating in 1947. Helen later received an M.A. in Psychology from the Teacher's College, Columbia University.
During World War II, Helen (also known as Hutze, a nickname three nieces gave her because they could not pronounce her real name) served as a nurse in the 803rd Medical Air Evacuation Squadron in the Army Air Corps. Stationed in the China-Burma-India theatre, she regularly flew over the Himalayas caring for wounded soldiers; her diligent service was featured in the April 7, 1945, issue of Phoenix, the Southeast Asia Command's Picture Weekly. A recipient of the Air Medal, Asiatic Pacific Theatre Medal with four bronze stars, and a meritorious service unit plaque, by war's end Helen had risen to the rank of Captain.
She met her future husband, Frank L. Miller III, while he, too, was stationed in India. They married in 1947 and moved around the country so much that none of their four children were born in the same state. They finally settled in Darien, Conn., in 1953, where Helen volunteered as a school librarian, subsequently heading the school library system and later directing the Thomas School library.
The family spent every summer in Edgartown and owned a house on South Water Street. It was there that Helen and her children rode out Hurricane Carol in 1954. Six years later, the family built a home on Chappy that overlooked Edgartown Harbor.
Following the couple's divorce, Helen and her children continued to call the Island their summer home. She volunteered for a number of civic organizations, played an active part in community affairs (just ask any town selectman or zoning commissioner), and was a member of the Edgartown Yacht Club, the Chappaquiddick Island Association, and the Chappaquiddick Beach Club.
In the mid-1970s, Helen began to spend winters in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, becoming fluent in Spanish and teaching at the San Miguel School of English. Her students, who learned to speak English with a distinct Massachusetts accent, praised her commitment to them: "We're so grateful because you could be doing some other things," they wrote in a letter of appreciation, "but you prefer to be with us...spending your time preparing your excellent classes."