Remembering Tybel Miller

Tybel first came to the Fellowship Community as a Co-worker in 1987 and stayed for 20 years. She returned again in 2012 and lived another 10 years a Member, before her passing in 2022.


Tybel Elizabeth Miller was born on June 7, 1946 in Manhattan, Kansas (known as the Little Apple). She was the youngest of Dorothy and Cecil Miller’s four children. Her older sister was named Basia, and her older brothers were named Lauren and Kerry. She was named for “a beautiful Jewish artist,” Tybel Bernstein, who her parents had met in Berkeley in the 1930’s. Tybel’s middle name commemorated her father’s mother.



Tybel spent her early childhood and grew strong in the large stone house outside of Manhattan. Cecil was a professor of psychology at the Kansas State University. By the time Tybel was a senior in high school, she moved with her parents and older brother to Katmandu, Nepal, where her father was teaching abroad. Tybel’s mother had joined the Peace Corps—one of the oldest members at that time—to accompany her husband to Nepal. Aside from a touching shipboard romance going out to India, Tybel found it difficult to be a teenager in Nepal, and returned to the States to live with her older sister in Oak Park, Illinois, where she graduated from high school in 1964. Tybel had returned from Nepal with one small suitcase and took great pleasure in acting like a typical American teenager, buying clothes and new shoes. Basia, the sister providing a home for Tybel, says she was at the time blind to the challenges Tybel had been facing—among them, attending three different schools in the last three years of high school.


Tybel entered college at Kansas State in the psychology department, where she met a student of her father’s, Hans Edwards, and married him at the age of 19. The couple lived in Minneapolis and in Venice Beach, California, where she completed her degree in psychology. But the marriage was short-lived. In the early 1970’s Tybel moved to Crested Butte, Colorado where she worked for the local newspaper, the Crested Butte Chronicle. She was an activist—campaigning against the large money interests taking over small towns in the mountains and turning them into generic resorts. She even put her name on the ballot running against these powerful opponents, knowing well she would not win but taking a stand for what she believed in.


A few years later, she began working on a master’s degree in psychology, first in Texas and then returning closer to home to Wichita, Kansas, where she completed her graduate degree and joined the PhD program. Over the course of the 1970’s she moved around a bit, studied, and worked variously as a secretary at the University of Chicago law school, an administrator of a children’s home, a travel agent, provided daycare, ran an after school program, and was secretary to a grocery co-op.


A most significant event occurred in 1980 in Wichita, when Tybel’s son Alec was born, happily anticipated but taking his time coming into the world—6 weeks later than expected. Alec says that his impression is that Tybel was happy to be raising Alec on her own. Yet she wasn’t really alone at this time, surrounded by close family. After a try at living back home with her parents, Tybel and Alec moved in with her brother Lauren and his family, where Alec spent the first 2-3 years of his life. It was Alec who led Tybel into a circle of daycare parents, where she first learned of Rudolf Steiner and Waldorf education, and eventually of the existence of the Fellowship Community.


In the summer of 1987, Tybel and Alec came for a work-along at the Fellowship. Tybel was approaching the age of 42, and Alec 7. At 42, Rudolf Steiner teaches that our task is to develop inner knowledge and self - awareness while gaining knowledge and awareness of the outer world. Approaching the age of 42, Tybel had already identified an inner shift which she described as her “interest in psychology being transferred to spiritual science. “


Tybel began to learn biodynamic farming in 1987 when she arrived at the Fellowshp. In her own words, she said “I came here to learn about Anthroposophy through direct experience with an Anthroposophic initiative” while her son Alec attended Green Meadow Waldorf School. She wrote “thus I began to farm biodynamically because I was interested in being physically active. I grew up being physically active and had a yearning to get out from behind my books and desk work. I had a latent yearning to dig in the earth.” Tybel was proud to be the only one of the Miller kids who was active in farm work as her paternal grandparents had been, 100 years before.

Tybel was a Co-worker at the Fellowship Community for twenty years. She learned and practiced biodynamic gardening, learned to manage the greenhouse, which she did for 15 years, raised beds of flowers and herbs, provided our herb teas and cooking herbs, sang in the choir, wove in the Weavery, took care of the chickens, served as a member of the menu group and the garden group. Like all Co-workers, she also worked in the care of the members in Hilltop House. She was an independent-minded and devoted mother to Alec with a hands-off style that he appreciated as he got older. Those years were ones of deep engagement, some joy, and many challenges. And she persisted, stubborn perhaps, certainly determined to continue on this path through community.


And Like many other long-time Co-workers, there came a time when Tybel left the Fellowship, a time which marked further change in her inner life as well. Tybel married Roland Ulrich and together they went first to Wisconsin and then to Germany to work in biodynamics together. This proved to be a difficult last intimate relationship, ultimately heart-breaking for Tybel. It was at this time that she was literally faced with a life threatening heart surgery and systemic infection which required a long, slow convalesence.


In 2012, from Germany, Tybel wrote to Ann Scharff, “Roland agrees with me that my returning to the Fellowship is the best solution for me to be able to maintain a full life…. I have lived as a retiree for two years now in Germany. It is not the life for me. I miss more and more chatting on a daily basis with friends and acquaintances about daily affairs and spiritual matters, attending cultural events, and contributing to a community life…I would like to return to the Fellowship in this different capacity as a Member to make whatever positive contributions I can. “

Tybel spent the last ten years of her life here as a contributing Member. There wasn’t a day she wasn’t active and visible in the landscape, caring for the chickens and geese, growing and drying herbs, serving on the menu and garden committees. She was as consistent and reliable as a Member as she was all those years ago as a Co-worker. The only time we didn’t see her was when she was visiting Alec in California, precious time together.


Tybel went into hospital at the end of last year. It was not at all certain that she would survive. With characteristic decisiveness she determined to leave further treatment in the hospital and come home to await with patience and trust what was to come. Tybel lived another four months at the Fellowship, and on April 27th she crossed the threshold into the spiritual world, holding the hand of her loving son, Alec.

 

To make a gift to the Fellowship Community in honor of Tybel please visit

fellowshipcommunity.org/donate