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 www.mcinnisandholloway.com.
“Music is the literature of the heart; it commences where speech ends.”Print This Obituary & Condolences