Longtime resident Gretchen Elaine Miller passed away peacefully on January 18 at the age of 80. She had lived in Pacific Palisades on and off for more than 60 years, moving here with her family as a teenager when many of its rolling hills were still unpaved. Residing near horse corrals, she loved to tell stories of riding horseback along the ridges from the Palisades to Malibu in a terrain that was still largely undeveloped.
Gretchen was born in Seattle on July 12, 1941, the daughter of Thomas and Eleanor Miller. Her father was a U.S. Army colonel and her mother a homemaker. Her father’s military career (and a later post as a UN Delegate in the Middle East) meant the family traveled with him. Gretchen and her sister Kathy lived at times in Mexico and Switzerland, while also traveling to the Middle East.
After finishing her education in Switzerland, Gretchen worked as an administrative assistant for a number of small businesses on the Los Angeles westside.
In 1976 she married John Wallis, an architect, and had a son, Justin. Among other projects, Wallis drew the plans for the Pierson Playhouse on Haverford Avenue.
In 1994, Gretchen began work as Community Service Coordinator at Palisades Charter High School, which was a pilot program that involved the performance of 40 hours of student community service as a requisite to graduation.
During Amy Held’s helm of leadership at the charter school, Gretchen was instrumental in supporting a volunteer parent task force that resulted in transporting seven unused but relatively new LAUSD classroom bungalows onto the campus to upgrade worn-out bungalows and alleviate classroom crowding.
Gretchen was a deeply spiritual woman who often mused at the opportunities for growth presented to us by “life’s little lessons.” After retiring from Pali High in 2015, she spent her days connecting with neighbors on her cherished walks to the Via bluffs. Her “woodland house on the hill” was always open to visitors and she indulged in holidays spent around the fire sharing stories of her life.
She was an avid gardener and rescued many cats and dogs. She is survived by her son, Justin, and her nephew, Andrew Davidson.
“Gretchen was fortunate to have many friends who loved her like a mother. She was kind, witty, thoughtful, and lived a very full life. She will be deeply missed, although her legacy and the profound impact she had on the lives of others will continue to live on.” said former Pali High student and longtime friend Gina Murdock.
“Mom loved life and always put others ahead of herself. She loved the outdoors and having long chats with anyone about any range of subjects from politics to plants over a strong cup of Mate (green tea from Argentina),” Justin said.
In her final years, Gretchen suffered from dementia and required constant care from this disease which ultimately caused her passing. Her son is planning a private celebration in Santa Barbara.