Phyllis Anne (Stevens) Miller
April 29, 1929 – July 20, 2022
Phyllis Anne (Stevens) Miller, loved by family and friends, went to Heaven peacefully on July 20, 2022 at the age of 93. Predeceased by husband, John D. Miller, Jr.; brother, Lindsley “Steve” Stevens; sister, Alice Stevens Volechenisky; parents, Asa Hilbert and Lela Lindsley Stevens. Survived by children: Anne Miller, John Miller III (Katherine), Kristin Griffey, and Karin Schultz (Charles); grandchildren: Raymond Griffey (Shannon), Kylie Foss (Chris), William Griffey, and Jack Griffey; great-grandchildren, Beatrice Lindsley Foss and Louise Colibri Foss.
Phyllis was born into a family of prolific educators and musicians in Athens, Pennsylvania on April 29, 1929. She graduated second in her class from Athens High School and went on to study Church Music at Westminster Choir College where she achieved both Bachelors and Masters degrees. That’s also where she met John Miller and fell in love. At Countryside Community Church, Phyllis and John wrote beautiful music and encouraged young people to discover and develop their talents in music. Phyllis retired after 30 years in May of 2002.
VISITATION: Wednesday, July 27, 2022 from 5pm to 7pm at Countryside Community Church, 13130 Faith Plaza, Omaha, 68144. MEMORIAL SERVICE: Thursday, July 28, 2022 at 11am at Countryside Community Church. The family would like guests to wear colorful clothing. Donations will be accepted by the family to defray costs related to Phyllis’ care and final expenses.
Phyllis Anne Stevens was born on April 29, 1929 in Athens, Pennsylvania, to Lela (Lindsley) and Hilbert Stevens. Her family tree was full of talented musicians, educators, and a distinguished heritage that included a DAR chapter named for her ancestor and revolutionary war hero, Lt. Asa Stevens. Phyllis’s father played clarinet in a local Dixieland Jazz band, and both parents were active members of their church choir. Phyllis was the youngest of their three children. Her older brother, Lindsley, also played clarinet in a local dance band, while oldest sister, Alice, was both a teacher and lifelong learner. At age 12, Phyllis began studying voice, and joined her parents in the church’s chancel choir.
Phyllis graduated from Athens High School, where her sister taught her French class, and her uncle was principal as well as superintendent. She went on to Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ, earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in church music, and further cultivating her beautiful coloratura soprano voice.
While at WCC, Phyllis met her future partner and soulmate, John Daniel Miller, Jr. (of Stamford, CT), and they were married on June 18, 1955. John’s discharge from the Navy in 1956 marked the start of their 38 year journey together in a partnership of life, work, ministry and song. Rounding out the ‘50’s, their oldest daughter, Anne (1956) and son, John (1957), were born, and John accepted a position with Omaha University, which included the music ministry at nearby Dundee Presbyterian Church.
Early ’60s highlights include daughters Kristin (1960) and Karin (1963), joining the brood, and Phyllis singing in the Omaha Civic Opera Chorus, with John as director. In 1964, Phyllis began conducting children’s choirs at St. Paul Methodist, where she formed her first all boys’ choir consisting of around 20 voices, dubbed the “Crusader Choir.”
In 1966, John was offered a position with the Philadelphia Academy of Music. With that, the Miller family relocated to Media, Pennsylvania, from 1966 until 1972. During their time there, John and Phyllis continued their Music Ministry, now at Swarthmore Presbyterian, where Phyllis directed and developed the children’s choir program.
In 1972, with encouragement from longtime friends, John and Phyllis returned to Omaha and became full time Ministers of Music at Countryside Community Church, then consisting of a modest 3-choir program. Part of their agreement with Countryside included summers off, so that Phyllis and John could return to the eastern US, where both had extensive family ties. While at Countryside, the music program blossomed into a thriving 10-choir program, including seven children’s choirs – all led by Phyllis – and two bell choirs.
During those years, John and Phyllis also collaborated to co-author several youth church musicals, including Rainbow Express, As Our Faith Unfolds, Plan A, Love You Spoke a Word, Appleseed John, Everlasting Covenant, and David. The three published and professionally recorded musicals, Rainbow Express, As Our Faith Unfolds and Plan A, have been performed in churches and venues all over the world.
Phyllis continued the couple’s music ministry following John’s passing in 1993, absorbing the chancel and bell choir responsibilities. Phyllis, along with dedicated volunteer assistance, continued leading the numerous children’s and youth choirs, including the Faith Singers’ traditional summer tour, where they performed As Our Faith Unfolds throughout the continental US.
Phyllis retired from Countryside in 2002, with a grand legacy. Throughout her many years in church music, Phyllis gained cherished friendships and the respect of all who came in contact with her. As a testament to this, Phyllis’s greatest joy was upon greeting former “choir kids” at the choir room door after they had become parents themselves, and sharing in the excitement of experiencing their next generation singing and learning with Mrs. Miller.
Phyllis forever lives on in the hearts and lives of her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nephews, nieces, and grand-nephews/nieces, as well as the legacy of the thousands of lives she touched, guided and influenced during her years of dedicated service in her calling as a minister of music.