Meet Susan Miller

Meet Susan Miller – A Vivalon Member and Healthy Aging Campus Resident 

 

Susan Miller’s life story is a captivating journey filled with diverse experiences, resilience, and a deep connection to the community. Born and raised in New York, Susan’s early years were immersed in the cultural richness and exposure to the arts that the city provided. 

 

Susan’s family relocated to San Mateo, California in 1966. She graduated from Hillsdale High School and went to College of San Mateo to work towards a teaching credential. She transferred to Santa Rosa Junior College and got her Associates of Arts degree in Liberal Arts. During this time, the population of children declined to the point where elementary schools were being closed so she had to make some tough decisions. After a friend from college led her to Marin, she instantly fell in love with the area. The breathtaking sights of Mount Tamalpais and Richardson Bay as she and her friend came over Wolfe Grade left an indelible mark on her, anchoring her to the region.  

 

This is where Susan decided to become a retail grocery clerk for Safeway in Larkspur. Being a grocery clerk at the time had great pay and benefits and allowed her to hone in on her customer service skills like committing to memory regular, returning customers, especially one in particular. She likes to say that he checked her out! Susan and the customer went on a date in February of 1974, got engaged in March, married in June, and opened the Brown Bag Country Eatery in Mill Valley in September. It was here that Susan’s culinary skills shined, and she was able to make signature dishes like chopped liver. She and her husband ran the restaurant for three years before making a change.  

 

Susan moved on in the food industry, becoming a caterer for the Golden Gate Energy Center and the pasta distributor at La Trattoria and six other restaurants in Marin. Her experiences weren’t confined to the culinary world, though. She also ventured into recruiting, became a publicist in the nonprofit sector, and worked for Broberbund Software, a large software company in Novato where she was able to develop her love for computers while working in customer service.  

 

Later in life, Susan started joining activities at Vivalon, initially drawn to lunch and special events in its café. Because of her background in cooking, she felt an appreciation for enjoying a delicious, hot meal at the café rather than having to prepare one herself. 

 

Life, however, also presented its challenges. Susan weathered a divorce and resettled in Novato, only to be struck by the unexpected passing of her brother. She sought to overcome a period of stagnation by selling her house and all its contents. She then attended a Vivalon Thanksgiving luncheon before embarking the next day on a daring solo journey to the Grand Canyon—a destination that had long captivated her imagination. Upon her return, Susan’s love of Marin was reaffirmed, leading her to the resolute decision she did not ever want to move out of the county that had been her home for decades. 

 

However, after selling her house, she faced housing challenges, moving between different rented rooms and, at one point, sharing space with a mother and daughter. With the escalating rental costs in Marin, it became increasingly clear that she had to seek a more budget-friendly living arrangement. “Marin County has a big shortage of affordable housing,” Susan explains. “A lot of people have had to move out of the county to afford housing, medicine, and food.” 

 

Susan had always been comforted by the community connections she found at Vivalon, particularly in the café. When the Marin County Housing Authority application period opened for the affordable apartment homes (managed by Eden Housing) in our new Vivalon Healthy Aging Campus, Susan seized the opportunity and applied without hesitation. “As a senior, there are a lot of things that are unsafe,” Susan expressed. “I want to be able to feel comfortable and safe – somewhere I don’t need to be vigilant or afraid.” This was her hope as she awaited news about her housing application. 

 

When that day came and she received approval to move into the new building, Susan felt like she “won the lottery.” She shares the freedom she’s found in being able to finally pay bills, live affordably, and have funds to do other activities. She now eagerly anticipates giving back through volunteering, gardening in the shared spaces for residents of Vivalon’s new building and experiencing more adventures in Vivalon’s new Center for Healthy Aging.   

 

As Vivalon celebrates its 70th anniversary year, Susan says she wishes for the organization to enjoy “70 more years of wonderful community involvement and keeping [up] the vision that they’ve had all along for caring for people as they age and helping them to do so healthily and safely and with a lot of joy.”  

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