Karen J. Miller

November 18, 1942 — March 16, 2020

Karen J. Miller

Karen J. Miller
Frankenmuth, Michigan
There is a moment when twilight succumbs to dusk as the last glimmer of orange disappears into the shimmering horizon of Lake Michigan. It is at this moment when the death of day gives birth to night. For our mother, this sunset moment was powerful, invigorating, hopeful, and introspective; and she strived to never miss one.
This simple moment was indeed one of her most favorite things, sitting in the dunes, drinking wine, surrounded by her family – watching the end of one journey and the beginning of another as the sun disappeared into the water.
Our mother’s life was full of these simple joys, and collectively they contributed to a quiet, comfortable, and happy life that she shared with her husband of 49 years, her two children, her five grandchildren, and a slew of beloved dogs who provided her devotion and companionship.
Born on November 18, 1942, in Saginaw, Michigan, Karen Jo Ortman was the only child of Chester and Dorothy (Dunlap) Ortman, who ran a small gas and service station at the corner of Wheeler and Kendrick Streets. While Karen was an only child, her surrounding neighborhood was full of plentiful aunts, uncles, and cousins who formed a tight-knit community that provided an abundance of action and a wealth of childhood memories. She fondly recalled picnics on Ojibway Island, block parties, her grandfather shinnying up a utility pole to borrow some electricity for a Saturday evening radio program, and eating ice-cream sundaes with homemade cherry sauce.
Karen graduated from Arthur Hill High School in 1961. While in High School she apprenticed in the accounting department at the Valley Sweets Company where she developed an interest in clerical, accounting, and office administration work. Shortly after graduation she started working at the General Motors Central Foundry/Saginaw Malleable Iron and continued there has a jack of all trades in various departments including sales, accounts receivable, and engineering, until 1986. Shortly after leaving General Motors, she took a job as the office manager at the R.L. Deppmann Company, a plumbing and heating wholesaler, where she worked until she retired in 2010. Between General Motors and R.L. Deppmann she worked for nearly 50 years – she was proud of her work and her work ethic and did a marvelous job of balancing family and work, while always making sure family was number one.
Karen met the love of her life, Daniel Miller, while in high school and on June 13, 1964, they began their 49-year love affair. They were adventurous travelers and oftentimes came home from work on a Friday, threw some suitcases in the trunk of the car and, without a plan, drove cross country to destinations like Las Vegas, Death Valley, Yosemite, Mt. Rushmore, and Jackson Hole. A small stack of 55-year old photos gives us some clues of these long-forgotten trips and the true happiness that Karen and Dan enjoyed in each other’s company. This yearning for exploring the west was not stymied once they had children, as these trips became family vacations, albeit a bit more planned. We fondly remember many of these trips when we drove through the big sky country of Montana in our 1978 Nova, visited our relatives in Alcester, South Dakota, and being awestruck by the natural beauty of Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, and Sequoia. This desire to explore was a gift that they passed onto us and we continue the joy of travel with our children today.
Shortly after they were married, Karen and Dan purchased a house in Frankenmuth that included the Pyn-Vu Nursery. They loved their house and their yard and made the place a home as they raised their children in the quiet rural enclave. This is where they truly lived and loved in the splendor of tranquility. This is where they enjoyed the ups and downs of a life. As time passed, they continued to travel, only not quite as rambunctious as the early years. They also enjoyed long country walks, their beautiful gardens, drinking a few beers while watching yet another sunset, their dogs, and ultimately their grandchildren.
Karen lost Dan on July 17, 2013, after his short, but difficult, battle with cancer. While she severely missed her best friend during the last 6 years, she filled her life with the joy of her yard, baking and cooking, the visits of her children and grandchildren, and long walks with her dog. She maintained a robust and incredibly active lifestyle – still using a push lawn mower at 76 years of age, and still enjoying an occasional can of beer.
At the age of 77, on March 16, 2020, Karen passed away, taking her last breaths in her sleep, free of pain, in her beloved house with her family and her dog Molly at her side. She waged a tough, 3-month battle against leukemia, pulling out all the stops, taking all the treatments, and maintaining a stubborn and defiant attitude against her hated attacker. In the end, cancer did not beat her. When she died, it died, so technically it was a tie!
Her passing, like all those sunsets, is the end of one journey, and the beginning of another. The death of day, the birth of night…and ultimately the rebirth of day.
Our lives will never be the same without Karen. She was genuine, stubborn, caring, loving, and a real straight shooter. She taught us to bake, to diagram a sentence, to tell a story, and to keep things simple. She demanded that we play outside, introduced us to camping, cultivated our artistic expression, fostered our love of animals, and showed us the way. We are proud to have had Karen as our mother and grandmother, she made us better and stronger human beings. We will never forget her. She truly was a best friend and a wonderful human being.
Karen will be missed by her son; Mark (Lisa) Miller and their children; Ava, Ella, and Evan, a daughter; Jennifer Miller and her sons Jacob and Wyatt.
Cremation has already taken place and a private memorial service will be held when the current world health crisis improves. Those planning an expression of sympathy may wish to consider a donation to Frankenmuth Friends of the Parks. Arrangements by W. L. Case and Company
To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Karen J. Miller, please visit our flower store.

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00, Saginaw, MI 48603

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