Michelle Reiter-Miller’s only daughter, Marissa Miller, remembers coming downstairs every morning of her youth and crawling into her mother’s lap. While she cuddled into her mom’s warmth, their dog, Mongo, would attack — jealous of Marissa’s position.
Now, all these years later, Marissa still cherishes these mundane moments with her mom: The mornings Michelle pops into Marissa’s room to ask her opinion on an outfit, or the evenings spent on the couch, talking about nothing and everything.
“No matter what you tell her,” Marissa said, “she’ll listen.”
Everyone in Michelle’s life echoed a similar sentiment and said there’s nothing more they like to do than be around Michelle, regardless of what they’re doing.
Michelle’s brother, Jeff Reiter, said every time they’re together, “there’s sure to be laughter,” while her sister, Katie Reiter, said the friendship they share as adults has enriched her life.
“She is one of the most important people in the world to me,” Katie said.
Zach Miller, Michelle’s eldest, looks forward to hour-long phone calls with his mom “more than I do anything else,” while her son, Spencer, enjoys shopping trips (specifically to Kohl's) or time spent savoring the little things.
“I’ve learned to speak up for what I believe in. There is no better example than watching my mom do it every single day.”
And Greg Miller, Michelle’s husband of 25 years, said their life together has been full of adventure, laughter and love.
“She is the yin to my yang,” Greg said.
Because Michelle is a powerful, intelligent, emphatic, reliable, insightful, caring, down-to-earth and funny woman who brings joy into the lives of those around her.
A LOVING WOMAN
Greg Miller remembers the moment he knew he would marry Michelle.
After years being best friends — and then a year hiatus resulting from a night together in northern Michigan — Michelle called his fraternity house and, as fate would have it, Greg picked up the phone.
The two talked for a bit and the call ended with an ultimatum: Greg had to call Michelle back, or the two would never talk again. For 22-year-old Greg that meant he had to choose between losing a friend or gaining a life-partner; the fact they’d inevitably get married was obvious, “of course she was the right person,” he said.
Their wedding was a blast — and a blur — Greg said. Surrounded by only their closet friends and family, they danced the entire night in a state of newlywed bliss.
“[When] Michelle and Greg got married — they were both just so deeply, deeply happy,” Katie said. “Watching that was very moving.”
That happiness held strong over the years and Greg has cherished it all: The way Michelle lives with a curious disposition, her compassion toward others, her business savvy and most importantly, her hand in raising their three amazing children.
“She’s a great, great mom,” Greg said.
Michelle has always gone out of her way to play an active role in her kids’ lives, always challenging them to be the best they could be in school, he said.
“My mom is the most self-respecting and loving individual on this planet."
Michelle’s kids feel similarly. They each recognize how Michelle has given them the world.
“She loves us more than she will ever love anyone,” Zach said. “I think making us happy and healthy individuals has been her greatest adventure and accomplishment thus far.”
Marissa said she is living the best life she possibly could be because “of everything [my mom’s] given me.”
Every new memory. Every opportunity. Every piece of advice.
A SPIRITUAL GUIDE
“She has been a spiritual guide in many aspects,” Spencer said. “While at times my angsty self rejected this advice, [she] truly has helped me through so many situations whether she knows it or not.”
Marissa echoed the thought, “I’ve learned to speak up for what I believe in,” Marissa said. “There is no better example than watching my mom do it every single day.”
Zach added, “She always knows the right way to make you feel better or understand situations. It perhaps is her greatest gift and talent.”
The best piece of advice Zach has gotten from Michelle is to just be the better person.
“We have no clue what others are going through,” Zach said. “There are always reasons why people behave the way they do.
A JUSTICE WARRIOR
Michelle’s compassion bleeds into the way she leads her life: Advocating for what’s right.
“I’m very proud of her for standing up for what she believes in,” Katie said. “Personally, politically, at work. She always fights the good fight.”
Like all the times Michelle has taken on Seaholm High School, or all the times she’s called out bigotry, whether on social media or in person.
“My mom is the most self-respecting and loving individual on this planet,” Zach said. “She makes sure that the world will be a better, or at least a more knowledgeable place, when she leaves it.”
And that’s because, she not only stands up for what’s right, she lives what’s right.
“I'm very proud of Michelle for the way she has lived with integrity,” Jeff said. “Whether it has been in her role as a mother, a teacher, a psychologist, a sister or as a friend, Michelle always lived true to her values.”
And that includes living life to the fullest.
A PASSIONATE PERSON
Marissa has loved watching her mom pursue her passions.
“When I’m older I want to do something that I enjoy because I’ve watched my mom do it,” Marissa said. “That’s how I want to live my life.”
As an avid listener and detail-oriented person, Michelle has thrived as a psychologist and then, later, an educator. Currently, Michelle is the Human Services Program Director at Baker College, and Greg said she’s incredible at the job.
“She’s looked upon as a great resource,” Greg said. “People have a lot of confidence in her.”
“I'm very proud of Michelle for the way she has lived with integrity."
Greg said he sees Michelle continuing to further her career, possibly becoming the vice-president or president of Baker College.
No matter what she does career-wise (Spencer thinks she might end up political leader or perhaps a best-selling author) Michelle has a valued, rich and fun future ahead of her, hopefully in a world “not controlled by bigotry and hatred,” Zach said.
A world where she’s surrounded by her loving and ever-expanding family, living life with the same sense of wonder and integrity as she does now.
“I feel like she would say YOLO,” Marissa said. “She really does what makes her happy.”