Audrienne Miller -- Rochester

Audrienne Joyce "AJ" (Johnson) Miller, of Rochester, died Oct. 23, 2019, in Calabasas, Calif.

She was born on April 19, 1933, in Alexandria and grew up on a farm outside Garfield. The small farmhouse built by her father and grandfather had no electricity or running water, and they used kerosene lamps at night. Still, she described a happy childhood playing with her sisters in the woods, visiting the lakeside resorts owned by relatives to go swimming, and relishing the seasonal flavors her family shared, including their vegetable garden and the berries picked for jams. They churned their own butter to spread on homemade rye bread, and caramel rolls were a Sunday breakfast treat. Small ponds dotted the land around their farm, and she happily recalled falling asleep to the sound of bitterns and frogs at night. She realized later that life had been hard for her parents, but appreciated they made her feel safe and secure; she never went hungry or felt deprived.

She graduated from Alexandria Central High School in 1951. She went on to earn her R.N. Degree from Swedish Hospital School of Nursing in Minneapolis in 1954. While there, she met Kenneth E. Miller, whom she followed to New Jersey after he joined the Army and was stationed at Fort Dix. While in Trenton, she worked at St. Francis Hospital Emergency Receiving and, in 1955, she married Ken. In 1956, they returned to Minneapolis, and she worked at Abbott Hospital and at the University of Minnesota Hospital as evening supervisor in the emergency room.

In 1962, they moved to Rochester with their two sons, where their daughter was born. AJ kept active raising their young family, enjoying gardening, birding, and going for walks in the woods, where she grew adept at identifying wildflowers. Yet she missed working, and in 1970, she joined Mayo Clinic as a nurse in the department of Orthopedics. In 1971, she transferred to Preventive Medicine and was appointed to nurse supervisor in 1974, a position she held until retirement in 1991.

While working, she went back to college and in 1985 received her B.S. Degree from the University of St. Francis in Joliet, Ill., a day she described as one of the happiest in her life (photo below).

AJ was active in several professional organizations, serving as President of the Minnesota Association of Occupational Health Nurses, and on a number of state committees for that organization. She was elected to the nominating committee of the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses, and served on various national committees. In 1982, she received the Schering Occupational Health Award for her service to occupational health.

AJ enjoyed the Rochester Symphony Orchestra and Chorale, working in her flower garden, birding, reading, and traveling. She and Ken traveled several times a year to visit children and grandchildren, and to visit Europe.

As a girl, she had corresponded (airmail!) with her uncle, Clayton, an Army physician stationed in London who described caring for wounded soldiers. "I sat in our little rocking chair reading his letters over and over again and wondered what it was like in England -- so far away."

After experiencing wartime rationing as a young girl, she had the chance to visit England many times and to stay in London's nicest hotels, exploring the city she had once wondered about.

AJ's husband, Ken, died this September. She is survived by her two sons, Bennett (Roberta) of Alameda, Calif., and Peter (Lori) of Calabasas, Calif.; daughter, Joan (Dan) of Marblehead, Mass.; and granddaughters, Sara, Lily, Ava and Nina.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorials to Mayo Clinic for Parkinson's Disease research. There will be a celebration of her life for family and friends on a future date.

As a small child, she didn't understand why her parents' generation were amused when she introduced herself. She said, "My name is Audrienne Joyous Johnson." And she was.

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