Newspaper reporters and editors are die-hard skeptics. So it should come as no surprise that John Geddie, editor of the Loudoun Easterner, has begun to speculate that people would have trouble believing the accolades that have been used to describe the newspaperÕs publisher, Beth Miller.
"Nobody is going to believe this," he said last week. "I could talk about Beth all day long and it might give people some small idea about her, but none of us can do her justice. If they only knew her one day, then they would never forget her."
Miller, 62, died of cancer Nov. 13, eight months after doctors diagnosed the disease.
Her daughters, Amy Burns, Amanda Miller and Allyson Ruscitella, said that they are planning a variety of ways to remember and honor their mother. Their first move is to organize the Loudoun Healthcare Foundation gala, the Vintage and Vine Fashion Show. Proceeds of the gala, featuring Armani, Versaci and Channel fashions from the 1940s-1970s, will go toward Loudoun HealthcareÕs cancer center, slated to open in April. Miller has been named honorary chairman of the gala. She served a decade on the Loudoun Healthcare board of directors.
"WE ARE GOING to raise a ton of money for the cancer center," Amy Burns said. "After this, we will set up something permanent. É If we could save one life, it would be amazing."
Burns, 35, of Sterling, said she and her sisters and brother Clinton "Bud" Miller expect people will make suggestions about how to honor their mother. "WeÕre going to have plenty of our own," she added.
They will carry on their motherÕs annual toy drive for children in southwestern Virginia. "WeÕll continue it in her name. She worked very hard on it," she said.
"Helping children was her greatest passion, whether they were teenagers or little kids," Burns said of her mother. "She could never say 'no' to little kids."
Burns, who has been with the newspaper for 11 years, said she will gradually take over as publisher and Ruscitella will fill BurnsÕ position as advertising manager. Ruscitella has been an advertising representative for two-and-a-half years.
When Ruscitella, 34, of Fairfax, thinks of her mother, she remembers the sense of security she always felt when she was little. "Knowing she was in the front seat driving us everywhere or in the kitchen cooking," the daughter said. "When I think of Mom, I think of complete unconditional love and unconditional acceptance, which doesnÕt come from anyone else."
Burns had similar sentiments. "When I was sick, there was no one who could make me feel better than my Mom," she said. Burns remember her mother taking a cold cloth and wiping it across her face and on her arms, right down to her fingertips. "It was almost a good enough reason to get sick. Everything about her made you feel better and that feeling went on throughout our lives."
The sisters remembered the confidence their mother put into her children, while recognizing they were fallible. "The thing that sticks out about my Mom was her confidence in herself," Ruscitella said.
RUSCITELLA STILL wonders how her mother went from being a housewife to overseeing circulation for the Connection Newspapers to starting her own graphics business, Creative Types, within a few years. In the early 1980s, she bought the Loudoun Easterner from Geddie. She increased the 20-page newspaper to 80 pages and tripled circulation.
Geddie worked alongside Beth Miller, who lived in Reston. "She didnÕt know much about newspapers," he said. "But she grew to love newspapers and newspaper people.
"She absolutely loved it. She loved being in the center of our county political action."
As he recalled some of the more contentious issues that she championed on the editorial page, he kept correcting his usage of the word, "we."
"We felt, she felt, I often say that because we shared the same ideas," he said. "There were only two of us on the editorial board. That was me and Beth. We never had one disagreement over editorial policy."
They took a lot of heat when they backed the Saudi AcademyÕs right to move from Alexandria to Ashburn.
When she first became publisher, she championed the residents of eastern Loudoun County. She thought the eastern part of the county was being neglected, especially with the unequal representation on the Board of Supervisors. "We were on the wrong side of Goose Creek," he said. "We provided a forum for people on this side of the county. ThatÕs one of the reasons we ran as many letters as we did, and we still do."
GEDDIE CREDITED Beth Miller and the newspaper with pushing for redistricting to improve eastern LoudounÕs board presence.
He remembered when Beth Miller joined the Loudoun Healthcare Board of Directors. She described that board as the Good Old Boys Club.
After she joined the board, it slowly added representatives from eastern Loudoun. "She loved the people there at that hospital," she said. "She worked day and night for that hospital."
Geddie said he used to work for a large newspaper, covering the White House and Congress. He met a lot of people. "I have never met a more capable person in any walk of life than Beth. She could handle anything. That was a fact."
He said one of his fondest memories is of the two of them playing with her grandson Alex at the newspaper office. "He has been coming by since he was 3 months old. He is 5 years old now," Geddie said. "We both said we got our little office out here in Ashburn, this little farmhouse. We said, all things considered, we are the luckiest people in the world."
When asked what words he might use to best describe their relationship, he paused. After a moment of silence, he said, "She was the best friend I ever had."