The intriguing life of Fairbanks Elder Mentor and children's book author Judy Miller

Hello there! My name is Judy Miller. I am 80 years young, and published my first book at 80 years old. I've always believed that older people have an influence on the lives of younger people. That's why I believe the Elder Mentor Program works. You can share with the next generation some of the things you learned and saw growing up, and at the same time, you also find a way to relate to their generation and their time, too.

For example, if you bring kids into a nursing home, the residents love it. They perk up and come alive. It's the same principle the other way around, bringing Elders to the classroom, to connect and share with kids. I care about their success, I care about them as a person. I see that the youth have a future and need to step into it.

I love motivating children, that is my key goal. I celebrate my students with real feedback, and encourage them further toward their passions in life. You never know what impact you might have on someone. Kids watch us all the time and absorb so much. I certainly loved my grandparents dearly, and learned a great deal from them.

Some children don't grow up with positive role models in their family, or don't have grandparents of their own. That's why what we do is so important in the community. I have a lot of compassion for people, all people, and I try to really listen, not just hear. We as Elder Mentors offer a tremendous value of loving and caring wisdom to children. I make a difference being in the presence of kids. That's really why I do it. As volunteers in the classroom, we have such a wonderful impact because we have experience behind us, and we apply our knowledge and patience working with the students.

When I retired from working, I sat down and started putting pen to paper. It didn't take me but a few minutes to write my first book, but it took two years to edit, find the right illustrator, and gather the funds to publish. I was very blessed to find Juliana Miller in North Pole (we're not related) to digitally illustrate my story. It went to publishing on April 12 and became a best-seller on Amazon in five of 10 categories of children's books. I have a second book I've already written and just need to get with Juliana and start illustrating. I plan on having a series of 10 books, all of which will be connected.

I've spent most of my life in Michigan, and I've done a lot of things in my life. My children later on moved to Alaska, and that's how I found my way here. I love Fairbanks, love the natural beauty. It's breathtaking. After I got married and had a family, I went back to school to get my degree in counseling. I ended up spending 20 years in sales, selling industrial chemicals and equipment, beginning in 1985. I was a pioneer for women at that time in the field because it was mostly a man's job. In fact, when I had gone to college in the 1970s, I wanted to study to become a police officer, but was told a woman could not join the force. I graduated in 1974. That tells you that things hadn't changed yet. I remember I had tried to buy a car back then, but the salesperson told me I couldn't purchase a car without my husband's signature. So, I told him I would take my business elsewhere, and I did.

During my 20 years in sales, I took courses on how to identify all types of finishes in a building, like the wall, floors, etc., everything that pertains to how to clean and maintain them. I became certified in it, and built my own side businesses. I had a contractor cleaning business in which I would strip and wax floors, and make them look brand new.

One time a nursing home had hired me to strip and wax all the floors in their 120-bed nursing home. While I was doing it, the director of maintenance saw me and asked if I would be interested in becoming the housekeeping director for their company, covering 240 nursing homes across the country at that time. I said yes, and the administration sent me to three nursing homes to test my skills. I had to evaluate the work of each to clean and maintain the facilities. I won the competition against the other candidates, and they hired me. I worked there for 12 years and traveled to every major city in every state, and trained staff in housekeeping, floor maintenance and building maintenance.

In 2011 I had a very severe auto accident. The person was texting, lost control of their car and hit me. I lost my job at the time because I couldn't work anymore, and had to have two surgeries as a result of the accident. It took about six years to recover. I had two years of rehab for my head injury, and couldn't drive. I had to pass a driver's test all over again, which I eventually succeeded in.

I was given a lot of repetition to rebuild my brain cells. Since I had been hit in my frontal lobe, I had to relearn and reprocess quite a bit. I could function, and do things like cooking, but had to use a timer for everything because I would forget things so quickly. I recovered from the accident, moved forward in life, which eventually brought me to where I am today. I am so pleased to be part of the Elder Mentor Program, and am grateful to share part of my story with you.

Become an Elder Mentor in your community

The Elder Mentor Program is currently accepting applications. Benefits for qualifying seniors age 55 and older include paid time off, a tax free stipend, paid holidays, free meals and travel assistance. Please call for more information and to apply, 907-865-7276, or visit us online to fill out an interest form and learn more at http://www.eldermentor.org. If you are a school interested in having Elder Mentors volunteer in your classrooms, please contact us. You can also reach the team via e-mail at eldermentors@ruralcap.org. Search "Elder Mentor" on Facebook to find us there!

Judy's Pecan Pie Recipe

Kitchen tools: 9" pie pan, large bowl, spatula

Ingredients

I buy store-bought premade 9" pie crust

1 cup granulated sugar

3 Tablespoons light brown sugar

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup light corn syrup

¾ teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup salted butter, room temperature

3 eggs

1 ½ cups pecan halves

(sometimes I add extra pecan halves for taste)

Prep time: 15 to 20 minutes

Instructions

Place 9" pie dough in your 9" pie pan. Set aside.

In your bowl add and cream your sugar, brown sugar, salt, corn syrup, and butter

Add eggs and mix well

Stir in the vanilla

Stir in ¾ of the pecan halves into your batter

Keep ¼ of the pecan halves to add to the top of the pie filling

Pour into an unbaked pie shell. Spread evenly

Place your extra pecan halves on top of the batter

Make it look full and pretty

Cooking time: 50 minutes. If not done, add another 10 minutes

Prewarm open to 425 degrees

Place the pie into the oven and bake at 425 for 10 minutes

Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake for 40 minutes. Check to see if the pie is done by gently shaking it. If it jiggles a lot continue cooking until the center is set. Remove from oven when cooked

Allow pie to cool completely before cutting and serving. You can refrigerate the cooled covered pie for 1 to 3 days before serving if you need to.

 
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