Day 132: Amy Bess Miller

Posted
Thursday May 12, 2011

Taking time to read the tributes published after Amy Bess Miller died in 2003 at the age of 90 is time well-spent. Her depth and quality come immediately to the surface, as does the passion she exhibited during what amounts to her legacy: the restoration of Hancock Shaker Village, which straddles the Pittsfield-Hancock border on Route 20.

When the reading is done, you are left with the portrait of a woman who could both enjoy the moment and let her guard down while focusing on the task at hand.

The wife of Lawrence K. Miller, then publisher of The Berkshire Eagle, Amy Bess did more than just ride her husband's coattails.

John Ott was the Shaker Village director from 1970 to 1983. He spoke at a memorial service for Miller not long after her death.

"The only reason the village survived as a testimony to Shaker life is this woman," Ott said.

It is written that Amy Bess was a fun-loving socialite during the roaring ‘20s, and was a big baseball fan. In later years she was a regular at Wahconah Park, and in 1992 she threw out the first pitch before a game hosted by the Pittsfield Mets.

She was president of the Berkshire Athenaeum from 1944 to 1979. It was Miller who issued a plea for a new library in 1972, and that idea came to fruition.

Born Amy Bess Williams on May 4, 1912, in El Paso, Texas, she was the daughter of Dr. Frederick R. Williams and Elizabeth Avery Taft Williams. The family moved to Worcester when she was 5, and that's where she grew up. She graduated from both Bancroft School in Worcester and Miss Hall's in Pittsfield.

Miler studied art history and architecture at Sorbonne University in Paris. She was the first woman named as president of the Pittsfield Community Chest and received a national preservation award from the Garden Club of America.


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