Suzanne Perkins Miller died early Thursday morning, the 8th of June, at her home in Whitefish, MT, surrounded by devoted family members. She succumbed to a rare neurological disease, Multiple System Atrophy.
She was born April 5, 1943, in Choteau, Montana to parents who were both ranchers and rural schoolteachers.
As a child, Suzanne enjoyed music and dance. She loved horses, and as a young adult, she owned an Arabian stallion and took English riding lessons.
Suzanne attended college at the University of Montana in Missoula and at Northwestern in Dillon, where she earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education.
She married Larry Fonner of Whitefish, MT in 1963 and moved to Whitefish. She began teaching fourth grade students in nearby Columbia Falls, a career that spanned 30 years.
Suzanne was passionate about teaching and was known for the fun and challenging learning experiences she provided for her students. She carried on her father’s tradition of teaching young people traditional dances; each week her students practiced the waltz, fox trot, polka and Schottische fling.
Suzanne’s students taught her about climate change one year, inspiring her to eventually read dozens of books on this topic. She wrote and performed a musical Earth Mama Speaks Her Heart as a way to educate and inform others on climate change issues.
In 2000, Suzanne married the love of her life, Jerry Bruce Miller. The couple enjoyed hiking in Glacier Park and the Jewel Basin, sailing every summer weekend on Flathead Lake and spending time with their loving family and dear friends. The couple lived in Jamaica for two years after Suzanne retired from teaching, and after returning to Montana, purchased a second home in Arizona.
In Arizona, Suzanne discovered a spiritual and intellectual home with the Unitarian Fellowship in Green Valley where she cultivated some of the dearest friendships of her lifetime. She considered her time spent working with these friends on social and climate justice issues to be deeply important and rewarding.
Despite struggling from a cruel and debilitating illness, Suzanne was able to continue her zest for life and living until her final days. She was always courageous, compassionate and loving. She had many friends who loved her fiercely and loyally, and no enemies as she remained true to her moral compass and always treated others with decency and fairness.
Suzanne is predeceased by her parents, Ira and Evelyn Perkins, her beloved grandson, Connor Tarr, and her first husband, Larry Fonner.
Suzanne is survived by her three brothers; Earl and wife Dorothy, Victor and wife Phyllis and Stanley and wife Gloria, her loving and devoted husband, Bruce Miller, her daughters and sons-in-law; Leslee and Joel Atwood-Fonner and Laira and Adam Fonner-Pitman, her stepchildren; Kevin Miller, Kim and Tim Rose-Todd and Scott Miller, her grandchildren, Chance and Rebecca, Katarina and Fabian, Tommy, Alexa, Azlan, Ashley, Jake, Greg, Rachel, Bridget, Megan and Emily; great grandchildren, Blakely, Elias and Luca. She was very close to and deeply loved by them all.
Suzanne orchestrated her own Celebration of Life ceremony in the spring of 2016 in Arizona and there will not be an after-life service or celebration. In lieu of flowers or cards, Suzanne and her family agreed that donations to 350.org or the MSA Coalition would be greatly appreciated.