The Crusader Newspaper Group

Funeral services held for Naomi Millender

Funeral services were held Monday, November 12 at the Genesis Convention Center for civic activist and educator Naomi Millender. Naomi worked tirelessly to preserve Gary’s music and art culture. She was 73 years old.

The daughter of historian and educator Dharathula Millender, Naomi was born April 24, 1945 in Terre Haute, Indiana to Justyn L. Millender and Dharathula H. Millender. Naomi was confirmed into the Lutheran Church early in life and continued in the faith throughout her lifetime.

She graduated from Roosevelt High School in 1963 and received a bachelor’s degree from Indiana State University in 1967. Naomi received a master’s degree from Northwestern University and was a pre-doctoral candidate.

Naomi held many positions in the field of education among them, Education Consultant for Northeastern University Illinois Center for Inner City Studies. She also consulted for the Chicago Teachers Center and was Director of the Gary Historical and Cultural Society (GHCS) Summer Enrichment and Learning Program. She was also the found- er of NIMM Educational Services Inc.

An accomplished musician, she began playing the cello at age 9, and excelled as a master cellist. Naomi formed the Roosevelt High School and Indiana State Orchestras. For many years, annually she played in the Christmas Messiah at Monumental Baptist Church with the Southside Family Chamber Orchestra. Naomi was the only female member of the Internationally known Jazz Ensemble, the 8 Bold Souls, where she can be heard playing on many of their recording and traveled worldwide with her beloved “Beloved Souls,” as she affectionately called them. She was also a member of the Shadow Vignettes,

Instrumental in starting the Gary Civic Symphony Orchestra in the mid 70s. She spear-headed the annual Children’s Concerts and Christmas Dinner Concerts.

Naomi served tirelessly as a driving force and committed musician until her passing.

When it came to Black history, civil rights, community service and the arts, Naomi Millender worked passionately to teach and preserve Gary’s rich history through advocacy, memberships and programs. She served the Gary Historical and Cultural Society (GHCS) for many years and following the passing of her mother in 2015, when she stepped into the leadership role. She also ran the GHCS’s Summer Enrichment Program for many years. Each year the organization presented educational programs during the summer for Gary’s youth despite limited funding.

Naomi was an active member of the NAACP, the ETA theater group and was initiated into the Alpha Eta Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

She was preceded in death by her mother, Dharathula H. Millender; her father, Justyn L. Millender; uncles, Ernest, Oretes, Marshall and Nicholas Hood; aunts, Ruth Battle and Gladys Johnson; and brother-in law, Elder Isaac E. Preston Jr.

Naomi is survived by her sister, Justine F. Preston; niece/goddaughter, Christine C. Preston; nephew, Isaac E. Preston III; aunt, Estelle Anderson; and two special friends, Jan McMillan and Rosalyn Kennedy.

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