Article and Photos By Marianne A. Campolongo
What do Esther Miller and Bill Clinton have in common? They both live in Chappaqua and share a birthday, August 19, although Miller has a few years on the former president. She just turned 100.
Feted by over 100 friends and family at a party at the New Castle Senior Center the weekend before the big day and honored at a New Castle Town Board meeting where she was presented with a Proclamation from the Westchester County Board of Legislators announcing that August 19, 2015 is Esther Lopatin Miller Day in Westchester County, the spry centenarian enjoyed a busy time leading up to the big day.
Keeping busy is second nature to Miller. She plays bridge two or three times a week. “I love to commune with nature,” she said. She particularly enjoys bird-watching at the home she shares with her daughter Carol Glassman and son-in-law Morris, who built the many bird feeders and birdhouses that dot their property. On a recent visit, woodpeckers, cardinals, mourning doves, and sparrows were among the flock. “You have to appreciate the wonderful value these birds have to offer,” Miller said. She also enjoys relaxing by the fish pond at the Chappaqua home of her daughter and son-in-law, Roxanne and Ed Socolow.
A champion and captain of the tennis team at Hillhouse High School in New Haven, Connecticut, Miller played tennis well into her 80’s. “I still love sports. I spend many hours watching tennis, golf, baseball, and basketball on television,” she said.
Miller raised her two daughters in New Haven, Connecticut and both women attended the same schools as their mother, just as Kevin, HGHS class of 2013 and Katie, HGHS 2016 have attended their father’s alma mater and grown up in the same town. Kevin has followed his grandmother’s footsteps too, teaching as well as playing tennis.
Miller was also an avid golfer throughout much of her life, taking up the game so she could play with her late husband, David, who was a champion amateur. The two won many tournaments together as well. She taught her grandsons the game and made many friends on the golf course after moving to town.
Miller moved to Chappaqua from New Haven in 1980. At first, she missed Connecticut, having lived in New Haven her entire life, but soon she fell in love with her new home. “It’s so beautiful here,” she said. Not long after her move, she made an indelible mark on the community when, at age 66, she rescued a gunshot victim.
On September 24, 1982, Rev. Bob Butler, pastor of the Bedford Community Church in Bedford Hills, was writing the final sentence of a sermon about his future being in God’s hands, when, Butler said, a stranger walked into the rectory and shot him three times, once in the head. Blinded and delirious, he managed to make his way out to the street just as Miller was driving home from a round of golf. A man flagged down her car, hustling Miller into the passenger seat before leaving her to drive Butler to Northern Westchester Hospital Center on her own. “I kept telling him, ‘I’m not going to let you die. You’re too young,’” Miller said she told the 34-year-old Butler.
“She was certainly a good Samaritan,” said Butler, “I owe my life to her.” Butler eventually recovered most of his sight, and the two became good friends, going to dinner each September 24 until Butler moved to a parish in the midwest.
Roughly a decade later, in 1991, Miller fulfilled a life-long dream and graduated from Mercy College with a degree in criminal justice. Age 75 at graduation, she is Mercy’s oldest alumna.
Much of her family lives nearby. In addition to her two daughters who live in Chappaqua, her grandson Brian Socolow, his wife Pam and great-grandchildren Kevin and Katie also live in New Castle. In all she has five grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren, “including a set of triplets” who live in nearby South Salem, and most of whom were on hand to help her celebrate the big day.
“What prolongs my life is the love I have of all the people I have known,” she said. She also credits her longevity to “good luck” and “living close to family,” adding, “finally, the good Lord has control.”
Marianne A. Campolongo is a freelance writer and photographer from Chappaqua, New York. Her website is www.campyphotos.com