Remembering Sherry Miller

The Diocese of Belleville and southern Illinois community are grieving the loss of one of its most beloved and faithful servants.

Sherry Camille Miller, longtime director of Daystar Community Programs in Cairo, died on Oct. 30, 2022. She was 75.

The cause of death was reportedly complications following hip replacement surgery.

Friend and colleague Deacon Corby Valentine said there weren’t enough words to describe what a blessing Sherry Miller was to Southern Illinois and the people whose lives she touched.

“Some preach the gospel, Sherry lived the gospel,” Deacon Valentine said. “Some of us use these words at the dismissal during the Concluding Rite, ‘Go in peace glorifying the Lord by your life.’ Sherry Miller is a perfect example of someone who did glorify the Lord by her life. We are all challenged to imitate her caring and giving spirit.”

“She had a real love and respect for the poor,” said Judy Phillips, diocesan director of development and a good friend.

“She always asked ‘what can I do for you?’ Three days before she passed away she called me from the Intensive Care Unit to ask how everyone at the Chancery was doing and if we needed anything from her or Daystar. I gave her a ‘lecture’ and told her to get off the phone and rest!”

Phillips added. “That’s who she was till the end, always thinking of others.”

Sherry was known for her warmth, caring and beautiful smile—no matter the situation or problem—and for driving her pickup truck across Southern Illinois to visit the poor, the sick and the needy, while always providing the personal touch. She often worked seven days a week.

After her passing, those who benefited from her kindness spoke of her dedication and willingness to do whatever she could to help those in need, and how she always put others’ needs before her own—always asking “Do you need anything?”

In her 30 years with Daystar, a ministry of the Diocese of Belleville, untold residents of Southern Illinois were blessed to have been the recipient of Sherry Miller’s selfless love and compassion.

During the severe flooding in 2020, Sherry and Daystar were there for Donna Humphrey of McClure.

“If it hadn’t been for Sherry I don’t know what I would have done,” Humphrey said. “When you are broke it’s hard to drive to Cairo. So I’d call Sherry and I’d say, ‘I need some food, please!’ Daystar and Sherry have been a Godsend.”

Sherry shared a sense of loss with many of the people she helped. She lost a daughter in a car accident and a son was severely injured in the war in Iraq. And yet her faith never wavered.

“I always admired Sherry,” Cairo resident Carolyn Ponting said. “She had hardships most people could only imagine. I don’t know if I could ever smile again if I went through what she has gone through. But she was always smiling!”

“Sherry ran herself ragged,” Ponting added. “If anyone knows the Lord, it was Sherry.”

Last year Sherry, who the locals lovingly called “Sister Sherry” and the “Mother Teresa of Cairo” celebrated her 30th year with Daystar. In a recent interview with The Messenger, Sherry waved off questions about retirement.

“There is too much to do,” she said. “These are my people. I love helping people.”

Sherry dedicated much of her life to helping those living in some of the poorest counties in the United States. Daystar serves Illinois’ eight southernmost counties. The program runs the only food pantry remaining in Alexander County. The soup kitchen serves as many as 200 meals a day. Besides providing food, the agency helps with rental assistance, transportation, medication and utilities assistance.

Phillips told another anecdote about the time Sherry arrived late for a prayer service in Belleville.
“She said she was late because a state trooper pulled her over for speeding. He said, where were you going in such a hurry? Didn’t you see how fast you were going?” Sherry replied, “No sir, I was saying the rosary and I guess I wasn’t watching my speed.” The trooper let her off with a warning to keep her mind on her speed as well as her prayers.

A life Well Lived
Born in Cape Girardeau, Mo., and raised in Mounds, Ill., Sherry graduated from St. Henry Catholic High School in Charleston, Mo., in 1964, attended Memphis State University and later joined the University of Tennessee Child Development Center, working with severe and profoundly developmentally disabled children.

She returned to the Cairo area in 1980, and raised her family. Her experience with the developmentally disabled led to a position at MAP Training Center, where she would eventually serve as director.

In 1991, Sherry joined Daystar Community Programs beginning as the outreach coordinator and culminating as the director.

Over the years, Sherry served on the boards of various organizations, including the Illinois Hunger Coalition, Illinois State Board for the American Cancer Society and the Diocese of Belleville Coalition for the Healing Ministry. She was also a member of the Mound City National Cemetery Preservation Commission.

Sherry was a recipient of many honors, including the Southern Illinois Association of Priests’ IXTHUS Award in 2009.

“She was admired and respected by so many,” Phillips said. “Many parishes have called me. So many knew her because when groceries were collected for Daystar, Sherry came personally to pick them up and talk to and thank parishioners after Masses.”

Sherry is survived by her daughter Amy Camille Miller, her children William and Gus; her sons Elliott John Miller (April), their children Joey and Wyatt and Adam Joseph Miller and his children Taye, Trisdon and Noah. She was also a great-grandmother to Ezra Miller.

Other family members include her siblings Lufkin Moses (Vicki), Teresa Moses, Adrian Moses (Mari) and Ann Moses Rolwing (Jim) and numerous nieces and nephews.

She was preceded in death by her daughter, Ranee Leigh Miller, her parents, Evelyn and John Moses and her brother John Patrick Moses.

A funeral Mass was celebrated November 5, at St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Cape Girardeau, with interment at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Mounds, Ill.