Ann Russell Miller (October 30, 1928 – June 5, 2021) was an American socialite who left her wealth behind to become a nun known as Sister Mary Joseph of the Trinity.
Mary Ann Russell was born in San Francisco on October 30, 1928. Her father, Donald J. Russell, chaired Southern Pacific Railroad. Her mother was Louise Herring Russell.
She was an only child after the death of her sister Donna when she was young.
Russell had dreams of becoming a nun, but instead fell in love and married Richard K. Miller on June 15, 1948. Richard was an heir to the Folger coffee fortune. He was also the grandson of Christian Otto Gerberding "C.O.G." Miller, the founder of Pacific Lighting Corporation, which eventually became Pacific Gas and Electric Company; Richard eventually rose to the vice presidency of that company. She and Richard had a total of ten children. At her wedding, another admirer, George "Corky" Bowles kissed her on the cheek with the words, "I'll wait for you".
She became a prominent socialite in San Francisco, holding a spot on 22 organization boards and donating money to various causes. According to a 2005 feature in the San Francisco Chronicle she was friends with Loretta Young, Nancy Reagan, and Phyllis Diller. She held frequent parties at her nine-bedroom San Francisco mansion, and spent her days smoking, drinking champagne, playing cards and travelling around the world on scuba diving trips. Even so, she was a devout Christian and made a pact with her husband that when one of them died, the other would join a religious order. When her husband died of cancer in 1984, Corky Bowles invited her to join him on his yacht, and proposed. She refused as she had already made up her mind that she now belonged with the Carmelite nuns.
On her 61st birthday in 1989, Miller announced she would be entering a convent, and threw one last party at her mansion overlooking San Francisco Bay before it was sold to a member of the band Metallica. She wore a flower crown, and carried a helium balloon with the words "Here I am", so that people could find her in the crowd of 800 attendees. She gave away all of her possessions, and boarded a plane the following day to join the Sisters of Our Lady of Mount Carmel based in Des Plaines, Illinois. She announced that "The first two-thirds of my life were devoted to the world. The last third will be devoted to my soul."
Her children’s reactions were mixed.
Miller remained in the convent for the rest of her life, rarely seeing her family. According to one of her sons, Mark Miller, "She was kind of an unusual nun. She didn't sing very well. She was frequently late to her required duties around the convent. She threw sticks for the [community] dogs, which was not allowed. Also, she was my mother."
Miller died after complications from a stroke on June 5, 2021, aged 92. She was buried on the grounds of the convent in Des Plaines, Illinois, and her family had a private funeral for her.
- ^ a b c d e Lara, Adair (March 27, 2005). "From high society to a higher calling / The San Francisco socialite had it all – 10 children, friends, wealth – but she traded it in for life in a convent". SFGATE. Retrieved June 9, 2021.
- ^ a b c d O'Donnell, Maureen (June 8, 2021). "Sr. Mary Joseph of the Trinity, socialite who became 'kind of an unusual nun,' dead at 91". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved June 9, 2021.
- ^ a b c d Rumore, Kori (June 13, 2021). "Saying goodbye to 'Nun Grandma': The San Francisco philanthropist, widow and mother of 10 who gave it all up to spend her last 31 years in a Des Plaines monastery". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved June 14, 2021.
- ^ "Socialite Gives Up Wealth, Family to Become a Nun : Convents: Ann Russell Miller of San Francisco leads a cloistered life, after 10 children and years of celebrity and philanthropy. By all accounts, she is happy". Los Angeles Times. October 29, 1994. Retrieved June 9, 2021.
- ^ "Richard Miller Claims Ann Russell". The San Francisco Examiner. June 16, 1948. p. 25. Retrieved June 14, 2021 – via Newspapers.com.
- ^ a b c d "Sister Mary Joseph of the Trinity". The Times. June 17, 2021.
- ^ a b c "The US socialite who gave it all up to become a Carmelite nun". BBC News. June 8, 2021. Retrieved June 9, 2021.
- ^ "Onetime SF Socialite Ann Miller, Who Left the City to Become a Nun 30 Years Ago, Dies at 92". SFist – San Francisco News, Restaurants, Events, & Sports. June 8, 2021. Retrieved June 9, 2021.
- ^ "The US Socialite Who Gave Up Her Wealth, Left Her Family to Become a Nun". NDTV.com. Retrieved June 9, 2021.
- ^ "Onetime SF Socialite Ann Miller". sfist.com. June 8, 2021. Retrieved June 8, 2021.