May 15—ELMORE — Nancy Lee Miller, a supervisor for Toledo area biomedical testing firms and a dedicated volunteer who regained her congenitally lost hearing as an early cochlear-implant recipient, died Monday in ProMedica Toledo Hospital. She was 80.
Mrs. Miller, who lived north of Elmore, had developed a tear in her thoracic aorta that was detected less than 24 hours before her death, her son Andrew Miller said.
For about a decade, starting in 1976, she worked for North American Science Associates, or NAMSA, and then at BEC Labs, Inc. She was a microbiology supervisor.
Then, for about 20 years, she was a volunteer at what is now Mercy Health St. Charles Hospital in Oregon. Earlier she had transcribed print reading material into braille for a library.
"My mom was very, very intelligent. She was well read," son Andrew said. "She was not one to sit home having nothing to do.
"She came from very humble beginnings. They had little and next to nothing, so when her and my father started a family and were able to get their house and provide for her kids, she knew there were lots of people who needed help in a lot of different areas.
"She needed to be engaged," her son said.
Mrs. Miller had osteogenesis imperfecta, type 2, which can cause bone fractures — she had 20 fractures by age 20 — and hearing loss, said her son Gregory, a physician. Her mother had severe hearing loss because of the condition, and Mrs. Miller's hearing loss progressed through her teens. By her mid-20s, she could no longer hear.
She treated the hearing loss matter-of-factly and learned to read lips.
"She saw that her mother was able to function in the world having suffered the same problem, and she was trying to encourage me, because I was hearing impaired from the time I was 6 or 7," said Dr. Miller, her oldest, who has the congenital condition as well.
Her son Andrew said: "If you did not know she was deaf, you couldn't tell. If she could see your lips, she could carry on a conversation."
She made regular visits to a hearing specialist in Chicago. In time she received an early cochlear implant, which sends sound directly to the auditory nerve, at St. Charles in Oregon, son Andrew said. To relearn how to hear certain sounds, she visited hearing therapists locally.
Years later, she received a new-generation implant at the University of Michigan Medical Center.
"At that time, it was unheard of to remove a cochlear implant and put in a new one. It made a huge impact on her life," Dr. Miller said.
A replacement of the exterior device a decade later featured advances in technology.
"She used to talk about how it was great to be able to hear her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Her entire life revolved around them," son Andrew said. "That and being able to talk on the phone were the two biggest things she enjoyed from the process."
She was born May 21, 1940, in Antwerp, Ohio, to Grace and Marcell Frasier and attended high school there.
She and Rush Miller married Oct. 25, 1958. He died Jan. 27, 1991.
Surviving are her sons, Dr. Gregory, Floyd, Andrew, Todd, and Marc Miller and Paul Frasier; brothers, Marcell Frasier, Jr., and Peter Frasier; sisters, Rocile Rowan, Ida Wozniak, and Peggy Noftz; 17 grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.
Visitation will be Sunday from 4-8 p.m. at the Crosser & Priesman Funeral Home. Graveside services will be at 11 a.m. Monday at Clay Township Cemetery.
The family suggests tributes to the Sight Center of Northwest Ohio or a charity of the donor's choice.