LISTENING – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski listens in the audience as she's introduced during Wednesday's Sitka Chamber of Commerce meeting at Harrigan Centennial Hall. Murkowski and members of her staff spent the day in Sitka visiting with constituents. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Ruthanna Miller, Former Sitkan, Dies in Anacortes

Ruthanna Miller

Former Sitkan Ruthanna Miller, fondly known as Ruth, died unexpectedly on Friday, January 17, 2020, in Anacortes, Washington. She was 66.
She was born February 16, 1953, in Sacramento, California, the daughter of James and Betty (Collins) Miller. Her dad was a Salvation Army minister, and was stationed in Spokane in 1957, then in Southeast Alaska in 1961, first to Kake, in 1963 to Hoonah, and to Sitka in 1966. She graduated from Sitka High in 1970.
In the early 1970s, Ruth moved to Tampa, Florida, where she met her husband Sam and her daughter was born.  In 1977 she and her family moved back to Sitka, where her son was born.
She moved to Spokane in the early 1980s,  and in 1995 she and her children moved to Bellingham, Washington, where she worked as an office manager for the city, then became the pastoral assistant for administration at Sacred Heart Church.  She was pastoral assistant for administration with St. Mary Church in Anacortes for the past three years.
Ruth enjoyed a lot of things in life, but none were more important to her than her family, her faith, and her community.
Ruth valued little else above her relationship with her family, and she was eagerly planning her retirement in Spokane where her children and their families lived. If she hadn’t heard from her children in a while, she would send them messages, simply to let them know that she loved and missed them.
She loved to spend time with her four granddaughters, and showing off photos of her friends and her.  (Ruth would tell you that it never felt right not having a kitty.) She loved to tell her grandchildren stories of her days growing up in Sitka, and she shared a passion for music with her youngest granddaughter, Vita.
She loved music and loved to sing.  She truly had a gift, and was able to create her own harmonies, often getting them stuck in her head, so she would just have to record them on her phone. 
She gave the best hugs and made sure to never leave without telling you she loved you. She was a wonderful cook, and luckily for her family she loved to cook. Christmas won’t be the same without her quiche, her family said. She had recipes torn out from magazines and written on slips of paper all over her home, tucked inside her journals, which typically had only a page or two filled in and then sticky notes and little slips of paper stuck to them or inside them.
She enjoyed the antics of her step-grandsons Liam and Ronan as well.  She loved them and was proud to see them grow into men.
    Her work in the church and her faith in God were so important to Ruth and something she was so proud of. She found her work with the church to be rewarding and fulfilling.
Ruth was always available to listen to what weighed on other people’s minds, and was an empathetic listener, ready to share in their burdens with them. She had a gift of making everyone feel like they mattered and that they were heard.  Her children were the only ones who knew how deeply things weighed on Ruth’s heart.  She had a servant’s heart and sought to spread love, joy, and song wherever she could.
    Ruth lived all over the country, and although Washington was her home for many years, a piece of her heart remained in Sitka.
Sitka is also where her introduction to the Catholic faith began through the guiding hand of her friend Gloria.  While young, living in Southeast, Ruth and her family were adopted into the Tlingit tribe, where Ruth gained the Raven as her clan animal.  Because of her connection to the tribe in Alaska, Ruth always felt deeply connected to the Native community, and found comfort and family in their ranks.  Although Sitka was treasured in Ruth’s heart, she loved the beauty of the Pacific Northwest, and all the people she met here.
Ruth is survived by her children and their spouses, Adam (Stephanie) Thurston and Shannon (David Dempsey), both of Spokane; grandchildren Chloe, Avery, Remi and Vita; step-grandchildren Liam and Ronan; siblings and their spouses, Andy (Judith) Miller of Edmonds, Washington, Philip Miller of Kingston, Washington, Colleen Miller of Bellingham, and Naomi Miller of Sitka; and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins.
Her funeral service will be held at St. Mary Church in Anacortes, with  Rosary Vigil and Sharing of Memories 6 p.m. Friday, January 24. The Mass of Christian Burial will be at 11 a.m. Saturday, January 25, followed by a reception at the Father Auer Center.
To share memories of Ruth, sign the online guestbook at

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