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Elizabeth Stoothoff Miller dies, family's LI history traces to 1600s

Elizabeth Stoothoff Miller, who grew up on her

Elizabeth Stoothoff Miller, who grew up on her family's New Hyde Park farm and whose family's history on Long Island traces back to the early 1600s, died on April 1, 2015. Credit: Miller family

As a child, Elizabeth Stoothoff Miller galloped on horseback across 195 acres of her family's New Hyde Park farm.

As a girl, she played polo with her father and his friends.

As a young mother in East Williston, she was happy to rough it, summer camping in tents on the North Fork with her husband and children.

"My mother always had to be doing something," said Ronald E. Miller, 66, of Branford, Connecticut. "She loved being active and being outdoors, and when she couldn't do that anymore, as she got older, she'd always be reading. She just never quit."

A child of the Depression born to a family whose Long Island history traces back to the early 1600s, Miller died April 1 of complications from Alzheimer's disease at an elder care facility in Branford. She was 93.

She left behind rich layers of family stories and adventures, examples of social graces and etiquette of a woman educated at a finishing school, and a Depression-era mindset, family said.

Miller was probably born on her grandfather's farm in what is now a residential area of New Hyde Park, north of Jericho Turnpike between Marcus Avenue and Herricks Road, her son said.

The farm, which grew mostly potatoes, was purchased in 1891 by her grandfather, a descendant of Elbert Elbertse Stoothoff, born in Holland in 1620 and the first Stoothoff to come to New York, in 1638. The Stoothoff name on Long Island remains on street names -- Stoothoff Drive in New Hyde Park and Stoothoff Road in East Northport.

"She and her sister were best of friends and just were all over that farm, riding horses and doing things outside," Ronald Miller said. Once, she and her sister, Marjorie, were crossing a bridge on the farm that went over a brook, Miller said. "She went home to tell her mother that Marjorie was stuck, and when they went back to the bridge, Marjorie was hanging upside down, dangling over the brook."

Exactly how Marjorie got that way remains a bit of a mystery, Ron Miller said.

An accomplished horsewoman, Miller later played polo regularly with her father and his friends. Some of them were members of the Meadowbrook Polo Club, the first such club organized in the United States, Ronald Miller said.

But once her mother got wind of her daughter playing polo with the men, well, "my grandmother just put and end to that," he said. Miller went to finishing school, at Southern Seminary, now Southern Virginia University in Buena Vista, Virginia, and then to Simmons College in Boston, her son said.

He said his mother was gifted in social graces, perhaps because of her schooling. "She was always very proper in how you would treat people and what you did socially," he said. "She did it automatically. She lived it."

He said his mother's toughest time might have come in the 1960s, when her husband, Eliot, who died in 1982, was out of work. Ronald Miller said he never knew his father was unemployed, but a foreign exchange student who lived with the family at the time told him about it many years later.

His father, Eliot would get up and act as if he were going to work, Miller said.

It was about the same time that his mother started teaching and coaching at The Waldorf School of Garden City, where, as the girls basketball coach, she won a league championship. "I don't think she wanted anyone else to realize it," he said of his father's job situation. "You kept a stiff upper lip and kept at it."

She moved from her Lloyd Neck home in 2001 to live nearer her son and then lived the last several years in The Hearth at Gardenside where she died in Connecticut.

Survivors also include a daughter, Susan M. Penn of Fulton, Maryland; three grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Her husband, Eliot Miller, died in 1982, and sister, Marjorie Grochola, of Tucson, Arizona, died in 2013.

She was buried at Westbury Friends Cemetery. A memorial service was held April 9 at the First Congregational Church of Branford.

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