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Dusty Miller

Dusty Miller Portrait
Dusty Miller (1978) Accession 1991-03, Item 113. Courtesy of the City of Thunder Bay Archives.

Submitted by the City of Thunder Bay Archives

Name: Eleanor Joan (Dusty) Miller
Date of birth: August 3, 1929 (Fort William, Ontario)
Date of death: February 14, 2012 (Thunder Bay, Ontario)
Accomplishments related to: Municipal Government; Theatre, Arts, and Culture; Community Development
Major affiliations: Police Commission, Board of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities of Ontario, City's Community Service Committee, Thunder Bay Non-Profit Housing Corporation, Children's Aid Society, Library Board, Social Planning Council, Theatre Northwest/Magnus Theatre, The Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra, Thunder Bay Art Gallery, Community Auditorium, Theatre Ontario, the Art Gallery of Ontario, Lakehead University's Board of Governors

Dusty Miller’s involvement with the municipal government of Thunder Bay stemmed from her advocacy for the arts. Although her career change from the arts community to municipal politics seems like a stark transition, to her it was quite natural. In an interview with Paula Thiessen of Bayview Magazine, Miller stated: “I ran for council deliberately because I always had to go to council for assistance. I thought it wouldn’t hurt to have some kind of spokesperson who could speak knowledgeably about the arts. I have to say that the councils of Thunder Bay were quite open.” In 1974, Miller became an alderman.

Upon realizing that the city's government lacked expertise in arts and culture, and having only been a member of council for four years, Miller decided to run for Mayor. Concurrently, Miller was instrumental in developing an arts policy for the city: she was the first chair of the city's Arts and Heritage Committee, and also served on standing committees for family and children’s services, non-profit housing, and architectural conservation. In 1978, she was elected, and Dusty Miller became Thunder Bay’s first female Mayor, post amalgamation. She served from 1978-1980. After her mayoral term, Miller left politics. Five years later, she returned as a City Councillor and served the city until 1991.

Miller was born and raised in Fort William, moved away for a time, and returned to the Lakehead in 1954. It was then that she became involved in community development, specifically with the local theatre community. For nine years, she served as the Artistic Director for Cambrian Players (then the Port Arthur Community Players), directing twenty-six plays and nine musicals. She helped Burton Lancaster set up Magnus Theatre. She taught theatre and television arts in local high schools, designed and co-directed the drama program for the Fine Arts Division at Lakehead University, and taught courses in the Performing Arts Management Program at Confederation College. She also participated as a founding member of Theatre Ontario, and was part of a group of people that established the Thunder Bay Community Auditorium.

Some of Miller’s awards include: Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal, Canada 125 Medal, Northwestern Ontario Business Award for Influential Women, the Maggie Bassett Award, the Thunder Bay Community Auditorium President’s Award, the Order of Ontario, Lakehead University Alumni Honour Award and Lakehead University Fellow.  

 Dusty Miller - Canada Games 1981
Dusty Miller and P.R.Cook at sod turning ceremony for the Canada Games Complex (1979) Accession 2011-23, Item 422. Courtesy of the City Archives.


Dusty Miller - Canada Games 1981-2
Signing of the Four Party Agreement (1978). Accession X989-004-76. Courtesy of The Chronicle-Journal and the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame.

Sources Used:

"Mayor Dusty Miller." City of Thunder Bay. n.p., n.d. Web. August 2013.
 <http://www.thunderbay.ca/City_Government/Your_Council/Past_Councils/Thunder_Bay_City_Councils_1979_-_1988/Mayor_Dusty_Miller.htm>

"Miller, Eleanor 'Dusty.'" Chronicle Journal. n.p., 16 Feb., 2012. Web. August 2013. <http://www.chroniclejournal.com/obituaries/miller/eleanor-dusty?order=field_obituary_pubdate_value&sort=asc>

Thiessen, Paula. "Dusty Miller." Bayview Magazine. Wrightsell Advertising and Design, 2012. Web. August 2013. <http://www.bayviewmagazine.com/node/117>

Simko, Stephanie. "The memory of Dusty Miller." The Argus. n.p., 6 March 2012. Web. August 2013. <http://www.theargus.ca/articles/uncategorized/2012/03/the-memory-of-dusty-miller>

"Eleanor Joan Miller." GlobeLife. Phillip Crawley, 10 March, 2012. Web. August 2013.
<http://v1.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/Deaths.20120310.93288530/BDAStory/BDA/deaths>