Cooper Miller was born in Southampton, England and moved to the United States in 1904, at four months of age, with her mother, Annie, half-brother, William, and sister, Kathleen. They came to Hudson to be with their father, Harry Cooper, who worked as a trained landscape gardener at the Evamere estate of James W. Ellsworth, a wealthy benefactor of Hudson. Ellsworth was instrumental in reviving the town and the Western Reserve Academy (WRA) in the early 20th century.
Cooper Miller herself went on to attend WRA and graduated with the class of 1924. She is the academy’s oldest living graduate. Cooper Miller developed a love of flowers and gardening from her father and helped when growing up by working in the large greenhouse her father built on their property next to the family’s home. After her marriage to Lloyd Miller in 1927 she began to help her mother with flower arranging at Cooper’s Flower Shop and Greenhouse.
Eventually, Cooper Miller became known as “The Flower Lady” and was the go-to person whenever arrangements were needed for weddings, dances, or funerals in Hudson and surrounding communities. She also provided floral arrangements for the annual Hudson Garden Club tour, for Christ Church Episcopal – where she has been a lifetime member – and for WRA. Cooper’s Greenhouse also supplied local florists with wholesale flowers.
Cooper Miller joins an elite group of people aroun the world. There are 66 Supercentenarians now living, the oldest being Misao Okawa of Japan at 115 years, 282 days. The oldest American female is Jeralean Talley of Michigan at 114 years, 203 days. The oldest American male is Wash Wesley of Illinois at 110 years, 325 days. Only two others living in the state of Ohio are older than Cooper Miller. They are Ruth Stethem at 110 years, 181 days and Mattie Bongs, 110 years, 115 days.
At age 95, Cooper Miller was still running her business and making deliveries of flower arrangements in her car. She bowled twice a week, played bridge and went dancing whenever she could. After 75 years in business she retired in 2002.
Cooper Miller was one of the first women in Hudson’s history to be elected to public office when she joined the Hudson Board of Education in 1938. She served as board president for 25 years. When she retired after 40 years of service, she was the longest serving school board member in the state of Ohio. While on the school board, she was instrumental in developing the current campus style of schools.
In recognition to her years of service the East Woods elementary school natatorium is named in her honor. In addition, the city of Hudson, on Sept. 27, gave Franklin Street – where she lived her whole life prior to moving to the Elms assisted living facility in 2003 – the honorary name of Ada Cooper Miller Lane. She is also the recent recipient of the 2013 Good Day in Hudson Citizen of the Year award in recognition for more than 70 years of taking meals to ill people or those who were housebound and visiting with many grieving people.
In a previous interview with the Akronist, Cooper Miller said: “I worked in odd jobs and worked in the greenhouse. Dad ran it and I took over. I enjoyed that. I did that all my life.” She said her flowers were the love of her life, “Father died fairly early. I did flower arrangements for weddings in Hudson. That’s been my whole life. I don’t do anything now…but I sort of miss it. I’ve always been in this area, I’ve never gone anywhere until later and then I traveled a little bit,” she added.
Tracy Krofcheck, who works in the activities department of the Elms, said, “I asked Ada one time what makes you think that you would ever live this long and she said: ‘I don’t know…I just get up and I live each day as it comes, and whatever tomorrow brings – it brings.’”
Cooper Miller spends afternoons in the activity center and watches movies in the lounge area. Krofcheck said, “She plays cards with us and comes to our cooking stuff. She doesn’t always like what we make but she will at least try it.”
Activities Director Trisha Golden explained some of the types of activities and enrichment the Elms creates for its residents. “We try to keep them as happy as possible. Usually when you think of people going to a nursing home they just sit there. We don’t want them just sitting there staring at the walls and doing nothing. So we do lots of different things. We take them on bus trips, we do crafts, we do music, we do their nails to help them feel good about themselves, and we play different games, [like] bingo. The usual things they really like to do. We do discussion groups, we take them outside. We do just about anything to try to keep them more involved so they’re not just lying in the bed, bored, and get depressed.
“Even if there are people in their rooms who don’t get out, we go in and visit them and try to make them feel a little bit happier. We show movies and try to keep them involved. The more you get your mind involved the happier you are. You don’t want to just sit there like a bump on a log and do nothing,” she added.
Dietary Manager Linda Norton has been with the Elms for 43 years and related some of its history. She said the old Brewster mansion on the Hudson green across from the clock tower was the original home of the Elms. The current facility was built new on the Route 303 location about 35 years ago. Mrs. May founded the Hudson Elms in the early 1900s then sold it to a doctor, lawyer and undertaker who were in Florida. “That’s who I was working for at the time when I came on board. Mrs. Schulzman was the administrator. As times changed and fire codes changed everything had to be up-dated. If you’ve ever been in the Brewster’s mansion you know it’s kind of old – so the best thing was to build a new facility.”
As to how Norton first came to know Cooper Miller, she said, “When I was working at the Hudson Elms [at Brewster] every Sunday she would bring flowers over and that’s how I got to meet Ada, from the church service. When she had extra flowers she would bring them in. Of course she knew a lot of people that were there at the time and they were all good friends so she was always coming in to visit. She was such a beautiful lady – you couldn’t ask for a nicer person. How she is right now is how she’s been ever since I’ve known her – she’s a real sweetheart,” Norton added.
In honor of Cooper Miller’s lifetime of achievements the staff and residents of the Elms feted the former florist with a gala celebration in the facility’s dining room on her birthday. The event was attended by friends, community members and city officials as well as many regional media outlets.
Hudson Mayor Bill Currin was on hand to offer his birthday wishes. “I’ve been the mayor here for approximately 10 years. When I finish my mayorship I will have served Hudson in various capacities for 30 years. Ada served as an elected official here in town for 40 years. She’s lived here in Hudson longer than anybody else in history. But the important fact about Ada is that she has given her life to this city, to her family. And she represents the four pillars that Hudson was founded on: Faith; Family; Education; and Entrepreneurship. Each one of those pillars she has done and she continues to do. She’s a model for all of us and as fine a city as Hudson is right now, it’s because of founding people like Ada that have given their time, their talent, and their blessings to not only their fellow citizens but to the city itself. I’m very proud of her and I encourage all Hudsonites to keep Ada as one of their role models.”
Frank Youngwerth, host of the local TV show “Good Day, Hudson,” had a couple of things to say. “This morning I posted on Facebook, on an area called ‘I grew up in Hudson,’ which has a lot of members all over the world. I asked them if they wanted to send greetings to Ada, they should send them through me – so I have here 122 names – that’s so far, by the time I get home there will probably be another couple of hundred.
“Back when we were looking to get the Ada Cooper Miller Lane put in we had about 75 people who responded to that by sending emails to the city council, so there are a lot of people out there who still remember who she is. I would say that she is just a tremendous lady. I call her the Grand Lady of Hudson,” Youngwerth added.
Minnie Wagner and her husband, Leo, would get together with Ada and Lloyd to have dinner at the Reserve Inn. “We’d go to their house or they’d come here,” Wagner said.
Laurie Howell remembered going with her parents Minnie and Leo Wagner to visit the Miller family. “I was probably 6 years old. We spent a lot of time there because we were there at holidays. The town was only about 3,000 people back then. Ada and Lloyd were friends of my parents and we would stop over and I would go play in the dirt in the greenhouse. I remember how it always smelled so earthy and rich. There were all the flowers – there was a koi pond. We spent time there – it was a memorable experience,” Howell said.
Larry Hendrickson of Hospice Care Services in Uniontown picked up the cake for the party. “The bakery thought I was joking when I asked for it to say 110 years old on the birthday cake. They thought it was a joke. I said, ‘No, it’s for real.’ This was the first time they ever had anyone to make it to 110.”