Betty Gloria Miller died Dec. 3 of sepsis, a toxic bacterial infection that led to kidney failure, according to her partner of 25 years, Nancy Creighton. She was 78. She had lived in Philadelphia for about eight years but spent most of her adult life in Washington.
Born in Chicago, she was the third child, and the only daughter of Ralph Reese Miller, Sr. and Gladys Hedrick Miller. Both parents were deaf and her two older brothers, Ben and Ralph, were hearing. Betty was hard of hearing much of her life; she lost her hearing completely in her 50s as a result of a high fever.
Betty was known as a pioneer in two fields. She was nicknamed the “Mother of De’VIA” (Deaf View Image Art), a genre that intentionally expresses the deaf experience through art. She was also a pioneer in counseling deaf alcoholics and substance abusers, and author of “Deaf & Sober: Journeys through Recovery,” published by the National Association of the Deaf.
She taught art at Gallaudet College (now University) in Washington for 17 years, and was the first deaf woman who graduated from Gallaudet (1957) to earn a doctoral degree (in Art Education, Pennsylvania State University, 1976). She co-founded Spectrum, Focus on Deaf Artists in Austin, Texas in the late 1970s.
Long active in civic endeavors, she worked for and supported Deafpride Inc. in Washington. She was a member of the first board of directors for Deaf Women United and designed its first logo. Later, she was president of D.C. Association of the Deaf.
She is survived by Creighton and many friends. She also leaves behind a large body of artwork — paintings, drawings, mixed media artwork and neon sculptures — in private collections throughout the world.
An open Alcoholics Anonymous meeting will be held this month with a memorial service planned for later in the year.