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Mary Harmon Miller




AAFA #0851

1920 MO – 2012 MO

Photo from Price Funeral Home




Maryville, Nodaway Co., MO—Tuesday, 24 April 2012


            Mary Belle Harmon Miller and Leon F. Miller were married for 65 years. Having met at the library while in college at STC (now Missouri State University), they were married May 5, 1946 after Leon returned from army service in World War II.

            Leon Miller died on May 28, 2011. So close was their bond that the following day Mary Belle suffered a disabling stroke, from which she did not recover. Mary Belle Miller died on April 22, 2012.

            As newlyweds, the Millers lived in Chicago, while Leon earned his MA and PhD from the University of Chicago. In 1950 they moved to Maryville, Missouri when Leon accepted a job as a professor and head of the Division of Education at Northwest Missouri State College. He would later serve as Dean of Instruction and Graduate Dean.

            Daughters Carol and Gayle became the focal point of Mary Belle's nurturing. Mary Belle dedicated countless hours throughout her life helping her daughters and husband in tasks and proofreading that made their careers and projects more achievable. The Millers were very proud of their daughters and their daughters were very proud of their parents.

            Daughter, Gayle Miller Bilden (a chemist) died in a car accident on ice in 1979 at age 23.

            Surviving her parents is their older daughter, Carol J. Miller (a business law Distinguished Professor at Missouri State University in Springfield, MO since 1984). Son-in law Bill Cobb predeceased Mary Belle. She is survived by son-in-law Dean Bilden, as well as cousins and nieces, and their families.

            Mary Belle Harmon Miller was born near Sheldon, Missouri, on January 13, 1920, the daughter of Rupert Franklin Harmon and Mary Anne Fugate Harmon, who preceded her in death. Mary Belle grew up in small towns in SW Missouri where her parents were teachers. Several summers were spent on farms or in Springfield, Mo or Columbia, while her parents worked on their college degrees. Mary Belle graduated from Walnut Grove (Mo) High School in 1936 (where she played on the girls basketball team) and graduated with highest honors in 1940 from Southwest Missouri State Teachers College (STC) (now Missouri State University), where she majored in commerce (business education) and music. She was honored to be the woman speaker at the college Senior's Honor Assembly in 1940. Mary Belle was student "Y" President, Pi Omega Pi Treasurer and was a member of the Bruin Boosters pep club, Glee Club and Mixed Chorus in addition to participating in college plays. Mary Belle taught for five years and took graduate classes one summer at the University of Minnesota and at the University of Chicago. She taught business and music classes at Nixa, Mo, and Willard, Mo before joining her parents at Rice-Patterson Air Force Base, where she taught typing and secretarial skills to service men in World War II.

            For over sixty years, Mary Belle was active in the Maryville, Missouri community. She was faithfully involved in the First Christian Church (as a board member, member of the serving deaconate, CWF president, and Sunday School member). In American Legion Auxiliary, she served at the 4th District President and Maryville President twice. She was the chairperson of the local Girls State selection committee for 23 years and volunteered at the state Girls State camp for 12 years. When the girls were young, she was a Girls Scout leader. Mary Belle participated in the Red Cross singers, served as a hospital surgery waiting room volunteer, and delivered Meals on Wheels for 17 years. She was active in the NWMSU Faculty Dames and AAUW. Mary Belle was a founding member of a faculty wives bridge group (founded in 1952), which is still active and whose members are honorary pall bearers. Mary Belle and Leon also played duplicate bridge in a bridge group for four decades. She attended many University, Legion and Lions activities with Leon and was a loyal Bearcat sports fan.

            Mary Belle Miller greatly enjoyed engaging in conversation with friends and relatives and keeping current on new issues, often saving clippings. On various trips, she was eager to research family history genealogy. She had great attention to and recollection of details. Mary Belle had a great concern for the well-being of family members and friends, and she will be greatly missed.

            Her service will be held at First Christian Church, Maryville, Missouri on Friday, April 27, 2012 at 10:30 am, with burial to follow in Nodaway Memorial Gardens Cemetery, Maryville. Visitation will be held Thursday night (April 26) from 6:00 - 8:00 pm at Price Funeral Home.

            Memorials can be sent to the Maryville First Christian Church or the James Edward Gray American Legion Auxiliary for Girls State sponsorship/activities or to the American Red Cross.

            Online condolences may be made to the family at


AAFA NOTES: SSDI records do not list her death.

            For more information about this family, see AAFA’s published genealogy, Descendants of John & Mary Alford of Frederick County Virginia.

            Her Alford lineage, from her great-grandmother: Indiana 1826 IN4, William 1820 IN5, James 1791 VA6, John 1768 VA7, Thomas 1736 VA8, John 1696 MD9.