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MILLER, Frances Margaret (nee Dibblee)

October 21, 19. . – April 19, 2012

Frances Margaret Dibblee Miller of Calgary, Alberta passed away April 19, 2012 at the Rockyview Hospital from post polio complications. A woman of indomitable strength, musical talent, resolute integrity and generosity of spirit, Frances is lovingly remembered by her family, friends, students and members of the Calgary arts community. She was an inspiration to those fortunate to know her. Frances endured life’s adversity without bitterness, rejected the notion of “giving up” and made music a centre of her life.

While music filled Frances’ soul, family filled her heart. Frances loved unconditionally her daughter, Cory; granddaughter, Catherine Frances Rose Meyers-Miller; and her husband and best friend of forty-four years, Gary Miller (1934-2002). Frances also leaves behind beloved family members: brother, James Dibblee of Calgary; daughter-in-law, Heather Meyers; nephews Kirk Muspratt of Chicago, John and Lee Ann Muspratt of Calgary, their sons, Troy, Ryan and Zach; and cousin Diane (Dibblee) Fotheringhame and family of Manitoba.

Born at home in Calgary, Frances was the fourth child of Edwin Walter and Clara Winnifred (McAllister) Dibblee. Her parents were each of United Empire Loyalists stock from Moore’s Mills, New Brunswick. When she was two years old, Frances contracted polio, which left her right arm and both legs partially paralyzed. From then until she was fifteen, Frances spent many isolated years enduring numerous surgeries at the Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary and at the Shriners Hospital for Children in Winnipeg. One of the longest-lived polio survivors in Alberta, Frances was a staunch member of the Southern Alberta Post Polio Support Society and remained deeply grateful to the Shriners and Canadian Legion.

During the Great Depression, The Dibblee family endured more hardship which required a move from Calgary to Coleman, Alberta in the Crowsnest Pass. In the 1950’s Frances returned to Calgary and studied voice with Eileen Higgin and met her future husband, Gary Miller, in Elgar and Eileen Higgin’s voice studio. She became a local celebrity by singing at Central United Church and serving as the vocal soloist on their weekly Sunday broadcasts. Frances remains the only person in the Kiwanis Music Festival’s history to win the coveted Stutchbury Cup (now the “Rose Bowl”) five times. In the early 1950’s, Frances attended the opera program at the Banff School of Fine Arts and studied with Dr. Ernesto Vinci. She sang the lead role in the opera, The Old Maid and the Thief and continued her studies with Dr. Vinci in Toronto at the Royal Conservatory of Music where she received her A.R.C.T. degree.

Back in Calgary, on the telephone from London, England, Frances received Gary Miller’s proposal of marriage. They were wed two weeks later, on October 31, 1958 in Elgar and Eileen Higgin’s Calgary living room. Immediately, they left for Toronto where Frances worked and Gary earned lead roles in Little Mary Sunshine, The Boy Friend and at the Stratford Festival. Two years later, their beloved daughter, Cory, was born and they moved to New York City. During their twelve years in New York State, Frances sang with Leonard Bernstein in Central Park, raised her family and opened an antique and clothing store named “The Victoria and Albert” in Woodstock, N.Y. Her clothing designs were seen on the Merv Griffin and Mike Douglas Shows. Frances and Gary proudly owned a home designed by architect, Stanford White, overlooking the Shokan Reservoir.

In 1972, Frances, Gary and Cory returned to Calgary and devoted themselves to building theatre and music culture. Frances was a founding member of the Lunchbox Theatre Board of Directors and opened a voice studio in her home. From there, Frances became a highly respected voice teacher who, for over 35 years, continued to teach until one week before her death. Her daughter, Cory, who inherited her mother’s beautiful voice, and has enjoyed a distinguished international career, hopes to honour Frances’ legacy by teaching voice in Calgary.

In addition to her husband, Gary, Frances is predeceased by her parents; her sister, Helen Maxwell; and brother, Edwin Walter Dibblee, Junior. A sister died at birth. Tragically, her beloved younger brother, George McAllister Dibblee, who introduced her to classical music and to the Metropolitan Opera radio broadcasts, died in 1960 in a drowning accident.

In celebration of Frances’ extraordinary life, a memorial service will take place on May 25, 2012 at 2:00 p.m. at the Christ Church, 3602 8 Street S.W. with a reception to follow. In honour of Frances Miller, donations may be made to the Calgary Kiwanis Music Festival (Suite 201, 404 Macleod Trail South Calgary T2G 2R7) for a scholarship in Frances’ name. Condolences may be forwarded through

“Music is the literature of the heart; it commences where speech ends.”

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Condolence Messages

  1. Shirley Baggs Paterson :

    I knew Frances in l950 -51 when she shared an apartment with 3 of us in a place on 11th Avenue. She had a wonderful voice and we used to go to listen to her sing at Central United Church. We lost touch with each other as both of us left Calgary for many years.

    It brought back many great memories of a wonderful young woman. I am not surprised that she accomplished so much. I wish we had managed to meet again. She was such an amazing person, even then.

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  2. Norine Burgess :

    I was so shocked & saddened to receive this notice from my dad. Fran was such a huge part of my becoming the singer I am today. It is entirely true that she was an inspiring, indomitable, generous, loving, spirited soul, and I am so glad to have had her as my teacher. I know she is sorely missed, & my sympathy goes out to Cory & all of the other family & friends; I wish I could be there to celebrate her life on Friday with you all.

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  3. Kristinn Sørhus Andresen, Norway :

    Cory and Heather. We were very sorry indeed to learn that Fran had passed away.She was such a remarkable lady, a joy to visit. Blessings and condolences from Kristinn and family.

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  4. Laird Mackintosh :

    Dear Cory,
    I was deeply saddened to hear the news of your Mothers passing.
    I will never forget the many happy hours spent in your parents living room, learning to sing. The sheer love of music and theatre, the atmosphere of support and encouragement, and the humour and laughter made a deep impression on me. How lucky I was to have had your Mother as my first teacher. She made a deep impression on me, and I cannot mention her without naming your Father as well, both of whom I really loved. What a wonderful couple they were. Not only did I have the connection with Fran, as student, but I had the joy of hearing Gary sing on a weekly basis – as he was our soloist in church – and so I saw a great deal of your parents for many years.
    A singing lesson with your Mother was always a happy occasion. I still remember the porcelain rose that Fran had on the piano, and always think of “smelling the rose” when I take in a breath onstage. And how much fun it was to prepare for NATS and the Kiwanis Festival – with Fran patiently explaining and consistently imparting the ideas of vocal technique and Gary directing and choreographing with such enthusiasm… and always laughter… I recall much laughter in your parents house.
    The music learned in your Mother’s lessons is still some of my all-time favourites: English Art Song, German Lieder and, of course, Musical Theatre – which has become my career. Having had such a wonderful teacher, at a young age, had a great influence on the path I was to take as an adult.
    I am so grateful that I knew your Mother. A lovely, kind, generous woman who lived a beautiful life and
    affected many people. I will miss her.
    Please accept my deepest condolences and know that I will be thinking of your Mother on Friday.
    Love to you, Heather and Catherine.
    from Laird Mackintosh

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  5. anne scrimger :

    We had the great good fortune to cross paths with Fran when my son Robin began studying singing with her. What a wonderful lady she was. I always enjoyed our conversations and she was an inspirational influence to Robin.
    We regret we cannot attend the memorial service but please know that Fran stays in the fabric of our lives.Our best wishes to you and your family.

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  6. Kimberlee Wolfe :

    Dear Cory and family,

    I am at a loss and still in disbelief over our dear Fran’s passing. Knowing your Mom and Dad, truly shaped me to who I am today. Fran ( and Gary) was a staunch supporter of my love of music and singing!!! Over the years I enjoyed many hours of music, singing, and literally growing up in the Millers home. Always a haven for those that wanted to perform! In later years, Fran and I shared tea parties once a year when I would return to Calgary. She was always passionate and enthusiastic for the talented students she was able to vocal coach. I had a dream of singing and Fran coached me through my high school musical productions, and always lent a compassionate shoulder when it came to matters of my heart and life. She was a beautiful soul and friend! I am very blessed to have been a small part of the enormity of her career and life!! She leaves such a legacy of love and passion for performing and always doing your best! My heart goes out to you Cory and family..however I take great solace in knowing that your Mom and Dad are back together again and putting on heavenly Broadway reviews and amazing recitals….

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  7. Cheryl Hookey (nee Beaver) :

    When I was a young singer in a quest to find a teacher,  I clearly remember being at the Kiwanis Festival and paying very close attention to the singers I liked best. Not surprisingly, I learned that most of them were Fran’s students. That is how I found Fran. She began as my singing teacher and became a life long friend. I loved her dearly. Fran’s commitment to her students was unwavering. She brought such passion to the art of singing, and was always looking for ways to improve and inspire and perfect. I also had the honour of knowing Gary, who taught me the other side of performing- that often “less is more” and ya just gotta “sell the song!” I can still remember his infectious laughter and his impeccable theatrical style. Knowing each of them was such a great gift, such a rare combination, and a huge part of who I am today- both as a singer and a person. My heart goes out to you, Cory, Heather and Catherine.  May it comfort you to know that so many people were touched by Fran’s beautiful voice, her teaching and her spirit.  Through her students, her influence will continue to be felt – and heard- for many years to come. 

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  8. Marilyn Webber :

    I was saddened to see of your Mother’s passing. I enjoyed my few hours each day helping your Mother and meeting everyone. Of course I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Catherine who was the pride and joy of both Fran and Gary.
    All the best to you,Heather and Catherine

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  9. Vivian Herman :

    I have such wonderful memories of Fran teaching our daughter Emily and preparing her for Kiwanis competition. She was an amazing person with such a wonderful positive spirit and inner beauty. We were blessed to have her as a part of our lives and she will forever be in our hearts. Always cherishing the gift of music she gave to all of us, we send you our sincere condolences on her passing.

    Vivian, Ben and Emily Herman

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