This memorial website was created in the memory of our loved one, Juanita Miller who was born in Mississippi on April 04, 1923 and passed away on March 09, 2005 at the age of 81. "Sis" as she was called by her beloved sister Judy and her brothers Bud and Max, parents Mur and Daddy, was a high-spirited, stunningly beautiful woman. Born on Vaiden Road off Highway 55 in rural Northwest Mississippi to a farming family, always a twinkle in her eye and a penchant for passionate adventure.
As she grew, the stunning figure blossomed, the glossy dark brown hair, the widely set green eyes, lush, sensuous mouth.........tantalized every man who met her. She was the most desirable thing Olive Branch and Hernando had ever seen, and many a man came courting out to the farm. When she was about 17, she started out on her own and went to Memphis where she took a room in a boarding house with several other girls and she went to work at the Peabody Hotel, where she became the Public Relations Manager. There, she was in charge of booking all the big bands who swung through town and appeared upstairs in "The Starlight Room", which was THE place in town.
Juanita was quite a jitterbug dancer, and danced with the best of them there in that round ballroom with the circular dance floor and long dark blue velvet curtains with stars on them. The folks would clear the floor when she and her partner were on it, in awe of their great talent and the vivaciousness she brought to everything she did. Always being the center of attention, the hotel was the perfect spot for her.
She was at the Peabody for a four year period, during which time she met many people, including many men in positions of financial and personal power, with whom she became closely involved. She was an exquisitely manicured lady of graciousness and southern warmth and charm, and in high demand. Many women were jealous just being close to her. Most of all, she radiated a passion for life and her spirit shone through in everything she did.
Around 1952, she followed someone she loved out to California and found an apartment somewhere near San Vicente and Wilshire Boulevards and got a waitress job at a Deli called "The Bagel". This is where she met her future husband, Frank Miller, when he used to come in for breakfast with a friend of his every morning. At that point, Frank was already in the field of construction, but was quickly becoming a successful songwriter and would soon lead a band "The Easy Riders" into fame.
Frank and Nita dated for a while, while Frank also saw other women. Nita became fed up and so she went back to Mississippi and the farm, telling Frank not to bother to call her unless he wanted to marry her. One day, she got the call. The only phone around was that in the Lewisburg Grocery up at the four corners at the end of Vaiden Road...and the owner came running down to the farm to tell "Miss Nita" that she had a phone call from California.
She came back to Frank and they married at the Beverly Hills Jailhouse. They took an apartment at Barrington and Gateway (which still stands) and enjoyed life together there. Frank became passionate about his music and friends of all ethnicities, and Nita accompanied him to music parties. Frank's guitar playing was gorgeous and it was the backdrop for their life together.
A baby girl was born to them while at the Gateway apartment, and this was "Melody" a shining blond baby with white curls and a fiesty spirit like Nita's. Nita and Frank spent those first months with their little baby and each other in relative peace and splendor. Frank's music was doing well, and Nita was happy.
They bought a house at 5075 Vanalden Avenue in Tarzana, which was in the West San Fernando Valley. Two more girls were born to them, Carol in 1959 and then Julie in 1963. These years were filled with music, good food, good friends, much liquor, too many deliveries to Nita from "Jake's Jug" and fragrant smoke from Frank's cigars. Contant musical gatherings, late night guitar playing, this is the atmosphere the Miller girls were raised in, this is what they were lulled to sleep with every night. Good music was permanently imbued in their consciousness'.
Much emotional turmoil went along with those things. Alcohol became something Nita came to rely on to find peace within herself and her life. Melody wished that she could have known Nita's innermost thoughts and feelings and somehow helped her find comfort. But, at the time, Melody herself was just a child and needed comfort. As well did her sisters. Often, Melody had to do without that. Instead, she lived in doubt and fear.
Frank and Nita did the best they could to keep family life together. Frank worked long hours and Nita worked hard to keep her girls clean and healthy and cooked beautiful food with a southern flavor. Everyone who ever tasted her fried chicken, flank steak or chocolate cake, could have died and gone to heaven. Melody remembers her listening to music - usually blues on television (when Frank was gone at nighttime gigs) and she'd have her white milkglass in one hand and her cigarette in the other, and she'd swing her hips around and dance so sensually in perfect rhythm to that music. Melody never forgot it. Now, when Melody dances, she thinks of Nita and that beautiful rhythm she had.
Nita's life became tumultuous, grasping for some kind of peace and happiness. It was unclear whether she had much at all. In her later years, things seemed to settle a bit when she stopped drinking and smoking and she and Frank moved to Northridge and found a big home with a large pool and gorgeous landscaping on Romar Street. Still lots of tension there, moments of peace, but Melody remembers lots of yelling and unhappiness. Some sadness.
Melody married Fred Sokolow, a gifted reknowned musician and two children were born to that union. First came Daniel and then later, Zac. Nita and Frank seemed to enjoy the boys when they were young. Although it was hard for Nita when the boys weren't neat.....they were just being boys!
Nita was famous for her buttery grilled cheese sandwiches in times one needed comfort. Those with a cold glass of milk were about as good as it gets. After the birth of her first child, Garrett, Julie moved to Arkansas and married his father, Sam Porter. Julie and Sam lived in Sam's home on the old Head Family land which contained the famous "Head Cemetery", the final resting place of Joseph and Maggie Head and most of their next of kin.
Soon, Nita and Frank followed Julie to Arkansas. There came an earthquake in Northridge where they lived and Nita claimed she was no longer comfortable there, so they sold their home, packed up and sold other belongings, and drove in Frank's white Explorer with their doggie "Gizmo" to Arkansas, where they found a large five acre estate and moved in.
In the meantime, their second daughter, Carol married Greg Taylor and they moved with their doggies to a nice home in Durham, North Carolina. Carol and Greg both worked at the Whole Foods Market there.
Frank and Nita seemed to finally be at a place with the rest they deserved until they released their estate was much larger than they realized they could physically maintain. They moved to at least two other homes, before they settled into another large one on top of a rolling hill. This is where Nita's rheumatoid arthritis became advanced, with Frank taking her several times a week for medical treatment. She also showed signs of Alzheimer's, which eventually escalated to a point where she was no longer capable of living in a partnership with her husband as a result.
Her loving sister, Judy, 18 years her junior, took her back with her to her home in Mississippi on the same land where they had grown up, three separate times. Each time, Nita missed Frank too much and wanted to go back to Arkansas to her home with him. Judy took her back there each time, until it became impossible for her to remain in the home because of her health issues. First she became wheelchairbound, and then finally, bedridden, going down from a statuesque five foot-seven shapely woman, to a frail 80 pounds and less.
Judy and her husband Wesley, along with help from June and her daughter Sandy as caregivers, nursed Nita, loved her, talked with her all the time and took the very best possible care of her that they could, for three years. Nita had her ups and downs, and would become very difficult at times testing the patience of all of them. Her fiestiness never left her - even when she was no longer able to feed herself.
At the end, Melody came to visit just two months before Nita passed, getting to share some very special time with her that she will always treasure. Judy was a Godsend to her, unfailingly caring for her - feeding her icecream by tiny spoonfuls to assure she got something that she liked to eat. Always there for her, always a good word a happy smile, something of encouragement. And Judy's husband, Wes, assisted in every way that he could and kidded her all the time - made her smile.
Nitas life ended peacefully one afternoon on March 9th of 2005. She had been given a morphine patch to ease her discomfort and had drifted off to sleep, never to wake again.
The world had lost a strong spirited woman and a little girl at the same time. Nita will never be forgotten. She lives on now in her husband, daughters and in her four grandchildren and all the lucky ones who loved her after all........and in countless memories.
Beloved / Melody Miller (daughter)
My inspiration! My Mother! My Sistah!
raining today / Melody Sokolow (daughter)
It's the heart afraid of dying that never learns to dance;It's the dream afraid of waking, that never takes the chance;It's the one who won't be taken, who cannot seem to give;And the soul afraid of dying, that never learns to live.
thinking of you today / Melody Sokolow (1st daughter )
and picturing you dancing the way you used to at the Peabody. I can only imagine, but I have your genes to thank for my own ability and love of it. When I dance now, I think of you and feel the passionate way you must have felt when you w...