Sandra Miller, 73 Brought holistic health care to Staten Island, instituted a stress-management program for Arthur Kill prisoners Sandra Miller died on Sept. 22, 2016, at Silver Lake Specialized Care Center in Staten Island after a seven year battle with early-onset Alzheimer's disease. She was 73 years old. Sandra Miles Terry Pineda Miller was born in Ravenna, Ohio, in 1943. She graduated from high school knowing that she would devote her life to helping others. After completing her RN degree and obtaining clinical-surgical nursing experience at Philadelphia General Hospital School of Nursing in 1966, she traveled west to become an assistant head nurse at the University of California Medical Center in San Francisco. But her lifelong dream was to travel to Europe and so she made the bold decision to postpone her career for one summer - she borrowed money from her father, bought a one-way ticket to Germany and packed her bag. Amazed and enriched by this bright new world, she found that she was in no hurry to return home. Realizing that she had a marketable skill, she applied for a job and was hired as a staff nurse at the British Military Hospital in West Berlin. After working there for almost a year, she heard about another better-paying staff nurse position at the West End Krankenhaus, also in West Berlin. Undeterred by her lack of fluency in German, she so impressed the head nurse there with her enthusiasm and determination that she was immediately hired. She was doing very well - she paid back her father, she had friends and a nice apartment and was making weekend side trips to museums and art galleries in France and Spain, improving her language skills and meeting new people and embracing the local culture. After another year, and ever hungry for new challenges, she moved to Spain, got hired at another hospital in Madrid, and eventually started doing private duty nursing for families on the Mediterranean coast. And so her dream of a summer vacation turned into three years of travel and education and culture. She returned to the United States in 1970 as a well-traveled, sophisticated, more socially aware young woman - and still eager to learn. She enrolled at New York University to pursue a degree in psychology while at the same time working at NYU Medical Center as a surgical nurse. Still continuing her studies at NYU and also at Hunter College, she began working full-time as head nurse at South Beach Psychiatric Center on Staten Island, a position she would hold for seven years. It was during this time that she began to explore alternate healing methods and journeyed to the jungles of South America to investigate and learn from traditional healers firsthand. She began to embody the revolutionary idea of holism, which seeks to treat the whole person - body, mind and spirit. And so in 1978 she rented a suite of offices close to South Beach to fulfill her new dream of creating and sharing a healing space with a circle of like-minded health care practitioners, to provide, in her words, "the context for self-transformation and health care." Thus the Center for Holistic Health Care was born, the first on Staten Island. The Center would serve as a vital asset to the Staten Island community for more than three decades. With the Center successful and flourishing, Sandra began to volunteer her time and energy with a number of different Staten Island agencies, including Project Hospitality and what was then the Staten Island AIDS Task Force, where she offered shiatsu and stress management therapy to AIDS victims. At the height of the AIDS crisis in the early 1990's, Sandra was asked to create a six-week stress management course for inmates with AIDS at Arthur Kill Correctional Facility in Staten Island. It met with such success that she expanded the program to accommodate the general prison population. To meet the growing demand, more in-depth courses were added. Train-the-trainer courses were developed for inmates themselves to become certified stress-management facilitators. Over the course of the 18 years she volunteered at the prison, more than 1,200 certificates of completion were awarded to inmates. The stress management program was perhaps Sandra's most enduring legacy; it was one of the prison's most popular inmate programs and would still continue had the prison not closed in 2011. Sandra touched many lives with her strength and courage. Her dedication to finding new and innovative healing methodologies brought relief and renewal to many. And those who knew her will remember her intelligence, enthusiasm, compassion and especially her warmth. She had the rare gift of making everyone she met feel as if they were the most important person in the world. Sandra Miller is survived by Michael Miller, her husband of 29 years. A celebration of her life will be held at the Unitarian Church of Staten Island, 312 Fillmore St., at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016. A reception will follow. A special Tribute Fund has been created in Sandra's memory to provide the opportunity for friends and family to contribute much-needed support for Alzheimer's research. Please consider making a donation of any amount to this most important cause. To contribute online, go to Sandra's page at the Alzheimer's Association website at act.alz.org/goto/Sandra-Miller and click on the "Make a Donation" button.
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