The union of Leland and Delores Bingham Miller brought forth, among many wonderful things, the birth of a beautiful soul, Terry Leland Miller who came into the world on a mild and sunny day in Connecticut. Terry took his first breaths at 10:52pm on Friday, May 10, 1946 at Saint Vincent’s Hospital in Bridgeport.
After the untimely passing of his young mother, Terry was sent to live with his paternal grandparents in Covington, Virginia. They raised him and his brother Eddie with an abundance of family and love during the time that Jim Crow laws governed southern society. The contrast made an indelible impression on Terry during his most formative years. It made him an even more passionate, steadfastly deliberate and sensitive spirit that showed up in the world to teach the legacy of true love for his family and his people. He showed his commitment to family and community as a husband, father, writer, social justice activist, and genealogist who was insatiably interested in the personal histories of people he knew, as well as his ancestors.
Terry worked continually on improving his life with education and community service. He obtained a Bachelor’s Degree at Southern Connecticut State University and went on to earn a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice while simultaneously lecturing on race relations across the state of Connecticut. He became a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Incorporated, Prince Hall Widow’s Son Lodge Number 1, and was engaged in a host of community service initiatives.
Married in 1965, Terry and his wife, Surverne, were live-in directors of a transitional home for youth of families in need of specialized support called UNO House in New Haven. The children of UNO House became Terry and Surverne’s family, raised alongside two of their biological children – Terry, and Russell – who also lived there. The Millers were committed to maintaining relationships and providing a welcoming environment for all of the children’s parents and families which established a model of integrative healing support – the first and only of its design in New Haven. Terry went on to spend several years as the Executive Director of Head Start for the City of New Haven, later becoming a government consultant before retiring from the State of Connecticut’s Day Care Licensing Division. His talents, interests, and relationships deeply enriched his professional career and were reflected in the many awards and recognitions he received.
Terry often spoke of his late wife as his teacher, his best friend, and the love of his life. He considered the two of them to be inseparable and attributed their lasting marriage to selecting company and friends wisely, loving family, forgiving quickly, and practicing faith daily. He was a devoted father and uncle, and taught his children to be playful yet disciplined, to enjoy reading, camping, swimming, dancing, traveling, and making his signature dessert bread pudding. He was the family historian and was usually found discussing books, political issues, or sitting behind a camera documenting a family gathering or interviewing his elders.
Terry is predeceased by his late wife and beloved lifetime partner of forty years, Surverne Watkins-Miller, and leaves with fond memories, his three children: daughter and caregiver Delores S. Williams (Kyle R. Williams) of New Haven, Russell A. Miller (Tricia) of Meriden, Terry L. Miller Jr. (Alexander Gonzales) of California; three grandchildren, Olivia J. Miller, Laila S. Williams, and Mason E. Williams; two foster sons, Eddie Freeman of New Haven, Larry Taylor of New Haven; as well as beloved in-laws (the Watkins family of Bridgeport), adored nieces and nephews, and longtime friendships.
As one out of five children, he is predeceased by his eldest brother, Edward Leland Miller, Jr. He leaves with fond memories, a beloved sister-in-law, Sigrid Miller of West Haven, CT; brothers Charles Miller of Rocky Hill, CT, William Miller of Covington, Virginia, Robert Miller of Wyoming; and one sister, Pamela Epps of New Haven, CT.
Terry succumbed to an eight-year battle with Parkinson’s and Dementia on December 26, 2019. Coincidentally this day was also the first day of Kwanzaa “Umoja”, which represents the first of seven principles that he believed in – to strive and maintain unity within the family, community, nation, and race. As challenging as this part of his journey was, it never rendered him unfamiliar with loved ones. In October, his medical chart shows him quoted to nurses stating, “my wife is waiting for me”. While his team of providers at Connecticut Hospice worked around the clock to ensure that he was as comfortable and as peaceful as possible, Terry took his last breaths at 5:30 PM watching documentaries and listening to his favorite music with his daughter Delores by his side.
A celebration of Mr. Miller’s life and legacy will be held Saturday, January 4, 2020, at 11:00 a.m. at Christian Tabernacle Baptist Church, 425 Newhall St., Hamden. Visitation will be held at the church from 10:00-11:00 a.m. Burial will be private