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Passages: Betty G. Miller

December 18, 2012


July 27, 1934 to December 3, 2012

Betty Gloria Miller lived wide, loved well, & blazed trails. She died at the age of 78 on Monday, December 3rd, 2012, of sepsis (toxic bacterial infection) leading to kidney failure. For much of her adult life, she lived in Washington, DC, and for the last eight years, she lived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Born in Chicago, Illinois during the Great Depression, 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 fifties 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.

Betty “lived wide” and a short obituary cannot do justice to her life’s journey. She taught art at Gallaudet College (now University) in Washington, DC for 17 years, and was the first deaf woman who graduated from Gallaudet (B.A.,1957) to earn a doctoral degree (Ed.D. in Art Education, Pennslyvania 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 DC. She was a member of the first Board of Directors for Deaf Women United (DWU) and designed their first logo. Later, she was president of DC Association of the Deaf (DCAD). These highlights cover only a small fraction of her accomplishments.

She leaves behind her beloved partner of 25 years, Nancy Creighton, and many, many friends dear to her heart. 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 in January 2013, with a memorial service planned for later in the year. Information will be available on this website.

Donations in her memory may be made to the following four organizations, all of which have been important to Betty:

  • De’VIA Collection of the National Association of the Deaf, created in memory of Betty G. Miller. Visit (click on “Donate Now” button).
  • District of Columbia Association of the Deaf, general fund. Visit (click on “Join DCAD!” page to donate).
  • Gallaudet University – three fund choices: 150th Anniversary Activities Fund, DE and PKZ Scholarship Fund, or the Gallaudet Fund (areas of greatest need). Visit to donate.
  • Deaf Women United (click on “Donate!” button).


2 Comments leave one →
  1. Donita Sather permalink
    December 27, 2012 12:10 pm

    I loved my Aunt and friend Bettigee . I will miss her truly. I got so caught up in life that I haven’t seen her in the last couple of years. I do Love her and her wonderful Partner Nancy.
    I grew up in awe of her accomplishments . I didn’t get to meet her until I was 42 . That was one of the most wonderful and happy events in my life. I treasure the memory.
    I remember a FUNNIE moment at that first meeting ; my sign skills were not so perfect as I had always gotten my deaf mom (Lucy , sister in law to Betti) to voice to me. ..
    Anyway , I was signing away making several mistakes. Betti was so patient with me and when I finished telling her about what kind of food I like to eat (Pizza) she noted that I’d signed ‘ I like to eat vagina ‘ Ha ha ha ! Oops !
    I am very Proud of her legacy and know that her spirit will always be with us. Her work is so beautiful and tells many intricate stories . They will tell those compelling stories throughout time and space. I Love You Bettigee !


  1. Purple Swirl Arts

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