On Being Intrepid: In Memory of Deb

Our Deb died five years ago this February 28. We miss her.

In this last year we celebrated Deb’s life as a family during a big reunion at Wild Horse Island in Montana. Deb had donated her body for study to the University of Minnesota. They returned her ashes months after she died, and then it took us some time to find the right moment to honor her by dispersing them. Deb had shared many ideas about what she wanted done with her ashes, but was unresolved at the point of her death, so we had to take time to reconcile her expressed wishes. Things she had said pointed us toward spreading her ashes in a place where we found joy together as a group and would likely be together in the years to come, and letting them be carried around the world and further dispersed by our large, international family.

Wild Horse Island, where Deb’s brother John and his family have a small property, emerged as that special place. Though Deb never visited Wild Horse Island, it has become a primary reunion spot for us—and she would have loved it there, camping, hiking, swimming, and, spending time together, as we do. There we gathered this summer. We shared stories of Deb and how our lives are changed and evolving now. We each let some of her ashes go into the lake off a rocky point. Then we separated what remained for people to take to other special places around the world.

We think all the time about what Deb would say and do about this particular era we live in. It seems likely that she would have been completely appalled at the renewed attack on women’s rights our society is witness to today, and she would have been thankful for and empowered by the burgeoning #MeToo movement. No doubt she would have created some way to articulate the tension between those societal gestures in a work of art. This year, in her memory, we have drawn on the Debora Miller Memorial Fund to make two donations, each for $500. One is to Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, because Deb benefited in her lifetime from the services of Planned Parenthood, and now Roan volunteers for the organization.

The other donation has been made to the Art Shanty Projects. Deb rugged up for life on the frozen lakes of Minnesota in both 2007 and 2009 to project her images onto shanties, and learned much that would inform later work. Working on the shanties also placed Deb (and family) in the wildness of Minnesota—on the ice. That intrepid spirit was always part of Deb’s approach to so many things in life and art. Now, we’ll let that model help carry us forward in the challenges ahead.

We remember her, and continue to rely on her.

We plan to give a gift (or gifts) in Deb’s memory each year for years to come, and we will keep you posted when we do.  Thank you to all who have donated to the fund. If you would like to help to continue to build the fund, please let us know (via Donate).


The Mission Mountains and Flathead Lake, looking East from the heights of Wild Horse island


At this rocky promenade, we spread some of the ashes


The shore of Wild Horse island, at the edge of the property


We remember Deb


Sunflower Light, Dusk Projection 2, Medicine Lake at the Art Shanty project, 2009


Light Grasses, Dusk Projection 2, Medicine Lake at the Art Shanty project, 2009


Green, Dusk Projection 2, Medicine Lake at the Art Shanty project, 2009


Milkweed, Dusk Projection 2, Medicine Lake at the Art Shanty project, 2009


1 Comment

Filed under Deb Miller

One response to “On Being Intrepid: In Memory of Deb

  1. Victoria Hartcup

    Speaks loudly of her fortitude and creativity. I sometimes see things through The Deb Miller Prism. Simple sensitive details of wild unspoiled landscape and flora and wonder how she would have framed it.

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