Kenneth E. Miller died on Sept. 3, 2019, in Rochester. He was 87 years old. He grew up in North Dakota, moving to Minneapolis in 1950 to attend Bible college, at his father's behest. He joined the Army in 1954 and was stationed at Fort Dix, N.J., when Audrienne Johnson "AJ," whom he had met when they both worked at Swedish Hospital in Minneapolis, moved to Trenton, N.J., to be near him. Ken and AJ were married in 1955, and returned to Minneapolis, when he mustered out in 1956.
Ken earned a B.S. degree in Speech Pathology from the University of Minnesota in 1960, and attended graduate school at the U until he and AJ moved their young family to Rochester in 1962, when he found work teaching speech in the Rochester school system. A year later Mayo Clinic hired him as an audiologist in the old L5 department, where he worked until retiring in 1990.
From early childhood, Ken loved to read and maintained a library of his favorite books all his life, from Max Shulman in college through Kurt Vonnegut, Simon Winchester and Barbara Kingsolver. Like many students in the '50s, he loved Walt Kelly's Pogo. Ken had a wide range of interests and activities, including woodworking, stone carving, gardening, crossword puzzles, walking and reading, reading, reading. After giving up smoking, he was a distance runner and bike rider. He was an avid Anglophile, visiting England over a dozen times, and maintaining pen pals across the pond for decades.
As a boy, Ken had to work to help his family. His career included working as a potato picker, grocery clerk, stock boy, clerk typist, painter, hospital orderly, laboratory assistant in a paint factory and speech therapist.
Ken's father, Edward, had worked as a relief telegrapher in North Dakota for Northern Pacific Railroad. For their first years together, his parents moved from town to town, so they were glad Ed found work with the telephone company and could move to the city of Bismarck. Pregnant with Ken, his mother, Elna, was happy to be near a hospital. Then they met a midwife at church, Mrs. Mandigo, who convinced Elna to have the baby with her. When Elna was due to deliver on April 29, 1932, a doctor was summoned, who mistook Elna's stoicism for unreadiness, and he left. Ken was born minutes later, depriving the doctor of his fee.
Grateful for Mrs. Mandigo's help, Elna asked what names she liked, and Mrs. Mandigo replied that she "had always liked the name Kenneth." As a boy, Ken loved the spinach harvested from the Mandigo's garden, and for the rest of his life would have spinach on his birthday.
When Ken was 12, Ed left his good job with the telephone company to become an evangelical preacher, a move Elna opposed. Ken said it was the only time he remembered his parents arguing. While his father was a minister, Ken had a science class with a teacher who promoted the scientific method and made fun of holy rollers. Mocked by fellow students during school, then hearing his father's sermons about Satan fighting for souls, Ken struggled painfully over belief in his teens, before becoming an agnostic, and the scars of that struggle stayed with him all his life. Moving to Minneapolis opened up the world for Ken. While in college, he worked as a busser at Dutro's Seafood on Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis, enjoying the large lunches on Fridays attended by the mayor, sheriff, fire and police chiefs and other dignitaries, with all their busyness and laughter. Ken said Mrs. Dutro, who ran the cash register, "was a sweetheart. She told us about her old cat who loved to be read to." If she set a book down facing away, her cat tapped it to be turned the right direction. Ken and AJ loved cats, keeping several long into retirement.
Ken's love of reading continued into retirement and he often shared new discoveries with family and friends, up until recently calling or emailing to recommend reading he had enjoyed such as Jodi Picault, Susan Allen Toth or Luke Sullivan's biography of growing up in Rochester, Thirty Rooms to Hide In.
Ken is survived by wife of 63 years, AJ Miller; his children, Bennett (Roberta), Peter (Lori) and Joan (Dan); and four granddaughters, Sara, Lily, Ava and Nina.
A private, secular memorial is planned.