Madras woman celebrates her 100th birthday
Feturah Miller does not know the secret to living to 100, but she says her whole life has been interesting.
"What's my secret? I don't know. We'll have to ask the Lord that," she quips as she reflects on her life as a wife, mother, teacher and overseas missionary.
The Madras woman turns 100 on Sunday, Feb. 21. The folks at First Baptist Church plan to celebrate the milestone. She's not sure what the party will entail – she was not invited to help plan her birthday party.
Nonetheless, the celebration will surely commemorate her many decades of service to the local church and the overseas missionary field as well as her influence as an elementary school teacher.
With only a little prompting from her son, Mark, Feturah shares highlights of her life.
She was born in the winter of 1921 in Henderson, Kentucky, the third of four children – there were two boys and two girls.
"I grew up in a wonderful, simple, rural family – a Christian home," Feturah says.
She spent a few of her early years on a little farm near Zion, Kentucky, before the family moved into Henderson where she graduated from high school.
"Then I ventured out and decided to go to college," Feturah said. She attended Western Kentucky State College with an English major and then Georgetown College, a Baptist college near Lexington, Kentucky. She then went to the Baptist seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, for a year. "And then Jack came along, and so we married."
That was 1945.
"I married a man that was a good Christian, and all my kids are believers," Feturah said.
Jack Miller had his own building business there in Kentucky, and she worked as a teacher for three years. They eventually had three sons, Daniel, Harry and Mark.
"We were always active in our church as a family, and I married, and that continued," she said. "At a point in our lives, we decided we'd like to do some mission work if it was possible for us."
In 1956, the Miller family moved west to Show Low, a little town in the mountains of eastern Arizona. They did some mission work on the Apache Reservation, Jack continued his construction trade, and Feturah was a teacher.
The missionary pastor on the Apache Reservation was asked to move to Oregon to work with the Warm Springs Indian folks.
"My husband was in the building business, and they needed to build a church up here," Feturah said. "He called us and asked us if we would come."
The family came up to Madras in 1957 and spent a year here while Jack helped build the church. Feturah commuted to Prineville to work at Ochoco Grade School. They then went back to Arizona.
Mark fondly recalls an adventure the family took to Alaska in the early '60s.
"We were in Valdez, Alaska, just before North America's biggest earthquake hit," Mark said.
"That was quite a nice trip, if you like adventure like that," his mother added. "Reading the news and all about the damage done up there in that area after we'd been there, it made it much more interesting, but nobody appreciates the devastation that comes."
A few years later, the family was again drawn to Central Oregon.
"In due time, we moved up here, and this has been our home ever since," Feturah said.
They settled in Madras in 1964 and joined the First Baptist Church, where Feturah eventually taught Sunday school. Jack continued to work in construction, and Feturah worked as an elementary school teacher, with most of her years spent at Buff Elementary.
They retired in the early '70s, and the Millers let the mission board know that they were interested in overseas mission work.
"They needed some help in Vietnam with the missionaries that were already there, and they invited us to go there, and we accepted," Feturah said. The Southern Baptists sponsored the couple's two-year assignment from 1974 to 1975.
"We lived in the northern part of South Vietnam. It was in a very beautiful country with mountains," she said. "Viet Cong took over, and all the Americans had to leave the country."
After nearly two years in Vietnam, the Millers returned to Madras for a bit before taking a second mission assignment to Thailand.
"We had a good mission period for at least a year in Thailand," Feturah said. They then had a one-year mission in the Philippines. "All of it was very rewarding and hopefully productive."
The Millers sponsored several Vietnamese families, helping them move to the United States. She keeps in touch with many of them, and they tenderly refer to her as "Mom Miller."
Over the years, Feturah has enjoyed being with people, gardening and reading.
"I like to plant things and help them grow and watch them grow," she says. "I like to read, but now my eyes are failing, so I don't get to do that."
Jack passed away in 1995 at age 75, just three months before they would have celebrated their golden anniversary. She says that although she's had some ups and downs, mainly with her health, she's had an interesting life.
Her son Mark lives with her at the family home northeast of Madras. He says he knows the secret to his mom's longevity – a love for teaching and a bit of stubbornness.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.