Vergene Noel Miller, daughter of Robert and Madelon Carlson was born on Oakes North Dakota on December 15th 1939. Vergene’s family moved to South Dakota when she was very young and they lived on a large farm near Hudson South Dakota where her father farmed and had cattle. Their huge vegetable garden installed her a life long love of gardening. She started her education at Normana grade school and then she graduated from Augustana Academy in 1958. While at Agustana Academy, she was very active in the music department and was a soloist with the choir in more than one cross country tour. She also participated in theater and other activities. After high school she attended Augustana College in Sioux Falls. It was there that she met her future husband, Dale Miller. While at Augustana she appeared in many musical productions. She also participated in the Miss South Dakota pageant where she won most talented two years in a row. Following her Freshman year, she performed in a summer theater in the Black Hills of South Dakota. During her freshman year, she was also named Miss Sioux Empire which allowed her to travel to Chicago with an escort to audition for famed vocal coach Madame Sharanova. She was accepted into the program and continued to study with her for many years. While in Chicago, Vergene performed at many concerts, musical productions, and television performances. She left Chicago in 1959 to perform with the famous Shieks sextet in a supper club in Minneapolis. They performed condensed operetta’s and musicals. What amazing costumes she had! In 1960 she married the love of her life Dale Miller. The couple moved to Huron SD in 1960 where they both taught at Huron College. Their first child Michael was born in October on 1961 and their daughter Meg was born in May of 1963. From Huron the couple moved to Columbia MO. It was here she continued her academic studies and graduated with a Bachelors of Music Performance. Before leaving MO, she performed in a production of Sound of Music with Florence Henderson at the St Louis Municipal Opera. In 1968, the family moved to Evanston where Vergene finished a Masters Degree in Music from Northwestern University. It was during this period that she performed widely all over the Chicago area. She also did over 50 club dates with her husband where they sang together, danced together and incorporated their two children into the act. It was a family affair! After graduating, she taught voice at Barat College in Lake Forest IL. IN 1972, she spent the summer at Yale at an intense summer workshop. In 1976 the family moved to West Lafayette, IN where Dale was the chairman of the Theater Department at Purdue. Very Shortly thereafter Vergene was teaching both at St. Joseph’s College and at DePauw University. While at DePauw she directed many opera’s and sang as a soloist frequently with both the orchestra and the choir. In 1989, she was named Director of Eastern European Studies. That year, following a summer of study in Salzburg Austria, she spent a semester in Vienna where she was in charge of 25 DePauw students. While in Europe, the group traveled frequently including such places as Moscow, Berlin, and Budapest. This was an intense time to be in Europe as the Berlin wall came down while they were staying there. Vergene retired from DePauw in 2005 after helping so many students achieve their goals of learning to sing. She continued to teach privately until right before her death in 2023. The greatest loves of her life besides her students were her husband Dale, her children Mike and Meg. And her three grandchildren Adriana, Lindsey, and Kira and her great granddaughter Evelyn. She loved books, watching birds, and traveling the world with Dale. Together they toured England, France, Scandinavia, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Spain, Portugal, Greece and many other places. They spent an entire summer in Copenhagen as a guest of one of Vergene’s students. Vergene had been suffering from dizziness for the last few years and had had several bad falls. One March 20th of this year, she had a really bad fall in the garage where she fractured her skull very badly in two places. She was taken from St Francis in Lafayette by helicopter to St. Vincent’s in Indianapolis. She never really regained consciousness. On the advice of her medical team, the family decided to take Vergene off life support on Monday April 3rd. She passed away only a few minutes later very peacefully surrounded by her loving family.
Vergene Noel Miller, 83, who passed on April 3, 2023 will have a Celebration Gathering at Unitarian Universalist
Church, 333 Meridian Street, West Lafayette, Indiana 47906 from 1:00 to 2:30 PM on Saturday, June 3rd.
Her full obituary was originally published in the Journal & Courier on April 5, 2023.