BANGOR, Maine — Frieda Miller, the 96-year-old founder of the store now known as Miller Drug, died Sunday at the Bangor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, an institution she had championed for many years. Miller and her husband, Abe, who predeceased her in 2003, were well known as local philanthropists, board members and volunteers for numerous charitable and civic organizations.
Their son Bill Miller, now the owner of Miller Drug, said Sunday that his mother was an extraordinarily independent and giving woman.
“She was willing to do whatever was necessary to make a living and raise four children, and at the same time be concerned about the welfare of other people,” Miller said.
Born in Bangor in 1912, Frieda Share graduated from Bangor High School and studied business at Beal College. In 1933, she married Abe Miller, who managed the Windsor Hotel on Harlow Street. But when a protracted illness left Abe unable to work for two years, Frieda — then the mother of two young children — borrowed enough money to open a small storefront on State Street. She called it Frieda Miller’s Variety.
“She put in a beer cooler, a soda fountain and some inventory,” Bill Miller said. “It became a meeting place. It was open every night until midnight.”
At the urging of local clergy and other community leaders, Bangor residents went out of their way to support the struggling business, Miller said.
When Abe was able to return to work, the store was renamed Miller Cut Rate. It did not become a pharmacy — the present-day Miller Drug — until 1957.
“She was a hell of a good cook, and she did a lot of kosher catering,” Bill Miller recalled. “Chopped liver was her specialty. This was probably the only drugstore in America to serve chopped liver sandwiches every day.”
Frieda and Abe Miller raised their children and worked every day at the store while assuming active roles in supporting a number of local charities and civic groups.
Bill Miller said his mother was a fierce advocate and benefactor for the Bangor City Hospital, now the Bangor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. She became a resident of the facility after her husband’s death.
“It wouldn’t be there today if it wasn’t for her,” Miller said Sunday. “And that’s where she died.”
But Frieda Miller’s most cherished project was Camp CaPella, a summer camp for disabled children on Phillips Lake in Lucerne. For more than 30 years, she and Abe raised money aggressively to fund “camperships” so disabled children from low-income families could experience the pleasure and freedom of summer camp.
“She always wanted to give back to the community. She never forgot the way the community supported our family when she opened the store,” Miller said.
Funeral services for Frieda Miller will be held at 1 p.m. Tuesday, March 3, at Congregation Beth Israel on York Street.