Lexington, MA – Dr Ralph English Miller Jr., 88, passed away on Sunday, November 21 at Brookhaven in Lexington, MA. He was the son of Dr Ralph E. Miller Sr. and Elizabeth Skolfield Miller who lived for many decades on Downing Road in Hanover NH. He was predeceased by his older sisters Elizabeth Congdon and Barbara Piane.
Ralph led a vibrant and inspiring life which began in Hanover, New Hampshire in September 1933. His passion for the outdoors was nurtured from an early age by his father, who organized camping and canoe trips as well. as adventures of skiing and climbing in the mountain desert. He graduated from Hanover High School and went to Dartmouth College, where he was a star on the college ski team. He played a key role on the United States Ski Team throughout the 1950s, winning several national championships and representing the United States at the 1956 Olympics in Cortina, Italy, where he competed in slalom, giant slalom and downhill competitions. In 1955, while training in Portillo, Chile, he set the world ski speed record, descending to 109 mph and setting a record that spanned 16 years. Asked about the quality of his gear during this effort, he would laugh and say, “I think I was wearing a t-shirt. The conditions were hot!
Ralph put his racing skis aside in 1957 to pursue a career in medical research. He graduated from a combined Dartmouth / Harvard medical school program in 1961 and focused his work on basic research in endocrinology. After marrying Pamela Gundersen Miller, also of Hanover, their family moved to Lexington, Ky., Where he served as an assistant professor of pharmacology at the University of Kentucky. In the years that followed, Ralph went from researcher to practitioner. He was thrilled to see patients and help them lead healthy and productive lives. During this same period, Pam established himself politically in Lexington and eventually succeeded in leading the city as mayor for ten years. Ralph loved his role as the town’s “first gentleman”. He was a staunch supporter of Pam and a tireless door-to-door activist – always enthusiastic about promoting his wife’s public service.
Ralph has defined athletic excellence throughout his life. He was a talented racer who regularly won his age group in road races. He trained seriously for many years, qualifying and finishing the Boston Marathon with a time of less than 3 hours. During a sabbatical year spent in Switzerland, he was exposed to the sport of hang-gliding, which became a defining passion for him. On many family trips, he pointed out the beauty he saw in soaring birds and quoted Leonardo da Vinci and Otto Lilienthal about their dreams of flight.
Ralph was very disciplined and devoted to his passions. In college, he was famous for incorporating a Rube Goldberg weightlifting machine into his desk to build leg strength while studying biology. He applied his high personal standards to his approach to life, defining greatness as what was possible for everyone. Some saw him as a tireless perfectionist; in his lab at the University of Kentucky was a simple poster for the team; “We can do better.” In retirement, he religiously studied the Tennis Channel to glean the secrets of an excellent service movement from professionals such as Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.
Ralph Miller is survived by his wife Pam and three children Alex, Erik and Karen. He was proud of his children’s three successful marriages and the resulting nine lovely grandchildren. His immediate family was with him when he passed away peacefully at home. His joy of living and his conviction to live it fully were an inspiration to all. He will be sorely missed.
Ralph loved nature. Donations in his honor are welcome to the Nature Conservancy of Kentucky. A memorial service will be scheduled for early next year.
Posted by Valley News on December 12, 2021.